The state of Trump's presidency is, well, pretty feeble.

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump leaves after speaking about a temporary reopening of the US government while making a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House on January 25, 2019. Copyright Brendan Smialowski AFP - Getty Images
By Chuck Todd and Mark Murray and Carrie Dann with NBC News Politics
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First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.


WASHINGTON — As President Trump begins his third year in office — after the longest shutdown in U.S. history and after another adviser was indicted — our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll provides a check-up on his presidency.

The conclusion: He's in pretty weak shape.

According to the poll, which was conducted before Friday's deal to reopen the government, Trump's job-approval rating stands at 43 percent among all adults — which is unchanged from December, and which is higher than other polls finding a slight drop in his approval since the shutdown's start.

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That's some of the good news for Trump in poll. The bad news is that just a third of Americans (33 percent) are "extremely" or "quite" confident that he has the right set of goals and policies to be president, and slightly more than a quarter (28 percent) have high confidence that he has the right set of personal characteristics to be president.

Half of Americans (50 percent) say they are "not at all" confident in his personal characteristics.

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What's more, Trump gets poor marks on many key presidential qualities. His best scores (where he gets a "4" or "5" on a five-point scale):

  • being direct and straightforward in communicating with the American people: 43 percent give him high marks;
  • changing business as usual in Washington: 39 percent;
  • being effective and getting things done: 38 percent;
  • being a good negotiator: 36 percent

His lowest marks:

  • being steady and reliable: 32 percent;
  • being knowledgeable and experienced: 32 percent;
  • being honest and trustworthy: 28 percent;
  • having high personal and ethical standards: 24 percent.

Notably, Trump is below 50 percent on all eight of these qualities. And the numbers for knowledge/experience, honesty and ethics are absolutely brutal.

"For all of his superlatives and self-evaluations of being the greatest at this, or the best at that, the best verdict the public can muster on any specific quality related to Trump is mediocre at best," says Democratic pollster Fred Yang, who co-conducted the NBC/WSJ survey with Republican pollsters at Public Opinion Strategies. "And most evaluations are far worse."

Trump isn't delivering this week's previously scheduled State of the Union — at least for the time being. But if this poll were to sum up the state of his presidency as he begins Year 3, it would say it's pretty feeble.

And this is a poll conducted Jan. 20-23 - so before Trump he caved on the shutdown and before his longtime adviser Roger Stone was indicted on Friday.

All about that base: Trump's base keeps him afloat

The best news for Trump in the new NBC/WSJ poll is that his base remains as strong as ever. Eighty-six percent of Republicans approve of the president's job, versus just 13 percent who disapprove ( 73).

By contrast, Democrats are 5 percent approve, 94 percent disapprove (-89), and independents are 39 percent approve, 53 percent disapprove (-14).

And Republicans give Trump high marks (a "4" or "5") on those presidential qualities:

  • being direct and straightforward in communicating with the American people: 82 percent (versus 11 percent among Dems and 41 percent among indies);
  • changing business as usual in Washington: 73 percent (versus 11 percent among Dems and 37 percent among indies);
  • being effective and getting things done: 75 percent (versus 5 percent among Dems and 35 percent among indies);
  • being a good negotiator: 74 percent (versus 5 percent among Dems and 32 percent among indies);
  • being steady and reliable: 71 percent (versus 4 percent among Dems and 22 percent among indies);
  • being knowledgeable and experienced: 70 percent (versus 4 percent among Dems and 22 percent among indies);
  • being honest and trustworthy: 63 percent (versus 3 percent among Dems and 18 percent among indies);
  • having high personal and ethical standards: 53 percent (versus 2 percent among Dems and 18 percent among indies).

As Barack Obama discovered, having a strong base can get you through some of the roughest patches of your presidency. But when you're relying ONLY on your base — and when you're losing independents by double digits -—you're in big trouble.

Former Starbucks CEO is "seriously thinking" about an independent presidential bid in 2020

But here is where a strong base can help you: If there's a three-way contest featuring an independent. (This is exactly how the controversial Paul LePage won two terms as Maine governor.)


And guess who's seriously considering an independent bid for the presidency in 2020: former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz.

"I am seriously thinking of running for president," he said on "60 Minutes" last night. "I will run as a centrist independent, outside of the two-party system we're living at a most-fragile time not only the fact that this president is not qualified to be the president, but the fact that both parties are consistently not doing what's necessary on behalf of the American people and are engaged, every single day, in revenge politics."

When CBS's Scott Pelley asked if his candidacy would siphon away votes for the Democrats, Schultz answered, "I want to see the American people win. I want to see America win. I don't care if you're a Democrat, independent, Libertarian, Republican. Bring me your ideas. And I will be an independent person, who will embrace those ideas. Because I am not, in any way, in bed with a party."

But if you want to see how third-party votes can make a difference check this out:

  • In 2012, third-party and independent candidates — including Gary Johnson and Jill Stein — got just 1.85 percent of the vote in that presidential contest.
  • In 2016, these folks — again including Johnson and Stein — got 5.19 percent.

Harris makes official presidential announcement in Oakland, drawing some 20,000

NBC News: "In the first major speech of her campaign, Harris, 54, advocated for Medicare for all, debt-free college, and a tax cut that will benefit working families. She additionally highlighted her record going after Wall Street after the financial crisis and spoke out against the so-called war on drugs."


More: "Harris targeted President Donald Trump and his administration's foreign and domestic policies and criticized racism, sexism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia in the nation. 'We are at an inflection point in the history of our world. We are at an inflection point in the history of our nation,' Harris said, speaking before a large audience of boisterous supporters. 'We are here because the American dream and our American democracy are under attack and on the line like never before.'"

The New York Times put the crowd estimate at 20,000, per an estimate from her advisers.

By the way, don't miss NBC's Benjy Sarlin's piece on the 2020 Dem race for the African-American vote.

WSJ: Trump doubts he would accept any congressional border deal

Just after Trump and Congress reopened the government on Friday, it looks like we're back to where we were in December.

The Wall Street Journal: "President Trump said Sunday he doesn't believe congressional negotiators will strike a deal over border-wall funding that he could accept and vowed that he would build a wall anyway, using emergency powers if need be."


"Mr. Trump, in an interview, assessed the chances of whether a newly formed group of 17 lawmakers could craft a deal before the next government-funding lapse, in less than three weeks: 'I personally think it's less than 50-50, but you have a lot of very good people on that board.'"

Also: "In the interview, Mr. Trump said he wouldn't rule out another shutdown, calling it 'certainly an option.'"

Why do Trump advisers keep lying when it comes to the Russia probe? The Washington Post asks this fundamental question

"They lied to the public for months before Donald Trump was elected — and then repeatedly after he took office. They lied to Congress as lawmakers sought to investigate Russia's attack on American democracy in 2016. And they lied to the FBI, even when they knew lying was a crime," the Post writes.

"In indictments and plea agreements unveiled over the last 20 months, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has shown over and over again that some of President Trump's closest friends and advisers have lied about Russia and related issues."

"On Friday, Mueller laid out a new allegation: that longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone lied to Congress and obstructed its probe of Russia's interference in the 2016 campaign."


On the 2020 trail

Harris participates in a CNN town hall from Des Moines, Iowa.

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