What Will Republicans Do if Trump’s Popularity With North Dakotans Continues to Fall?


President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a tax reform event with workers from the energy sector at the Andeavor Refinery in Mandan, N.D., Sept. 6, 2017. (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

As we head into the NDGOP state convention this weekend we have heard a lot from the Republican candidates about how much they line up with President Donald Trump’s agenda, and how much their Democratic opponents do not.

That makes a certain sort of sense. After all, President Trump got nearly 63 percent of the North Dakota vote in the 2016 election, beating Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton by nearly 36 percentage points.

But Trump, even his most ardent supporters will acknowledge, is extremely volatile. What happens if Republicans tie themselves to Trump, but voters here sour on the President?

Yesterday we got a preview of what something like that might look like. Responding to Trump’s aggressive moves toward trade protectionism, China threatened some trade restrictions of their own on more than 100 products. Among them soybeans.

North Dakota grows a lot of soybeans. Well over 2/3’s of the soybeans grown here go to China. Even though the fight between Trump and China is just words for now – no actual policy has been implemented yet – even the potential for restrictions is having an impact on agriculture markets right now.

If Trump’s own words and actions hit North Dakotans in the pocketbooks, the NDGOP candidates (most notably Rep. Kevin Cramer, who is taking on incumbent Senator Heidi Heitkamp) will suffer some collateral damage.

Which brings me to the subject of the latest polling on Trump’s approval rating in North Dakota. Morning Consult has released the latest iteration of their tracking poll, and it shows Trump at 53 percent approval and 43 percent disapproval.

That disapproval number is up ten points since January, while the approval number is down three:

For the most recent numbers were “compiled from surveys conducted March 1 to March 31 among 97,693 registered voters in every state and Washington, D.C.”

Trump does still have a +10 net approval rating, which is relatively good compared to how he’s doing in other states. That net approval is even up two percentage points from Morning Consult’s February numbers, but that’s still an increase inside the margin of error.

The trend for Trump’s approval in North Dakota is down this year, and that’s before this ugly news on trade for North Dakota farmers.

State Democrats, who have been wary about Trump so far this cycle, see an opening to pounce. They’re going to make hay. That’s going to impact how North Dakotans perceive the president most of them voted for. Republicans will need to figure out how to handle that.