2018 promises to be a year of challenge and opportunity for President Donald Trump, both domestically and overseas. Trump hopes to build on his victory on tax cuts late last year. But the president and his Republican allies in Congress will likely face strong political headwinds this year leading up to the November midterm congressional elections.
Even as he looks ahead to his second year in office, Trump likes to remind everyone about victory last month on a tax bill. “It is going to be tough to beat the year we just left because what we had last year was something very special, especially to cap it off with the tremendous tax cuts and tax reform,” Trump recently told reporters.
Trump's White House got off to a rocky start this year with publication of the controversial book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House” by Michael Wolff. The book's highly critical assessment of the president set off a political firestorm and raised questions about his fitness for office, especially among Democrats.
Trump and his aides slammed the book as mostly fiction. “There are numerous mistakes, but I am not going to waste my time or the country's time going page by page talking about a book that is complete fantasy,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders during one exchange with reporters at the White House.
Republican congressional leaders including House Speaker Paul Ryan would prefer to talk policy, not personality, especially in the wake of the tax cut win. "There are people who are just coming up to us and saying, ‘this is working, I'm getting bigger paychecks, I got a bonus,' or ‘I'm expanding my small business and I'm going to hire more people.' So that is exciting.”
Analysts say the furor over the book has once again sharpened the political divide over the president. “What I think the book will do is fit into pre-existing notions for some people that the president is mentally unstable or is having challenges with decline,” said Brookings Institution scholar John Hudak. “But for the president's supporters this book is going to be seen as a fabrication and as something not to be taken seriously.”
A poll this week found President Trump's approval rating at 36 percent while 59 percent disapprove of his presidency. The survey also found voters prefer Democrats to take over control of the Congress next year by a margin of 52 to 35 percent.
The New York Times noted this week that when a president's approval is under 50 percent, the president's party has an average loss of 40 House seats in the midterm. Democrats need a net gain of 24 House seats to retake control of that chamber, and two seats to take the majority in the Senate.