WASHINGTON – President Trump has tapped into and maintained his voter base through a promise of strong American leadership in the face of international and domestic terror threats, Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) said Monday.
Gallagher’s comments came as Trump prepared to travel to Las Vegas, where 58 people were killed Oct. 1 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history; police have since said they have no indication so far that terrorist or radical movements were involved. The Wisconsin lawmaker appeared at the Wilson Center with representatives from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The group convened to release a report weighing public opinion on the first six months of the Trump presidency.
“I did have a lot of people come up to me … and say, ‘In the wake of Orlando and everything we’re seeing abroad, is it safe to go to a Packers game?’” Gallagher said. “I heard that hundreds of times, and I would submit that if our position in the world and the state of American leadership have languished to the point that it reaches Lambeau Field, then we have a problem that your average voter can understand, and I think Trump tapped into that quite effectively.”
Gallagher noted a few statistics in the report to support his claim: About 65 percent of both Democrats and Republicans support an active American leadership role abroad, while 53 percent of core Trump supporters want the U.S. to serve as a dominant world leader. Gallagher said it’s more than a Jacksonian reaction to being attacked.
“It’s more that when we’re No. 1 and we have a credible military deterrent the world is safer, and to be safer and stronger, we need to support our friends and punish our enemies – in the simplest terms,” he said. “And I think Trump tapped into that.”
The 2017 Chicago Council Survey was conducted six months into the Trump presidency and surveyed about 2,000 people. Republicans made up about 26 percent of the overall sample, and were divided between “Trump Republicans” — 14 percent of the overall sample — and “non-Trump Republicans” – 12 percent of the overall sample.
The report’s findings differ from Gallagher’s comments in that the researchers described Trump’s speeches, tweets and rhetoric on trade as having an “isolationist” tone. Researchers cited Trump’s decision to exit international trade agreements, his comments on the North American Free Trade Agreement and the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement as evidence. Among the Trump slogans the report listed are “Make America Great Again,” “America First” and “Americanism, not Globalism.”
According to the survey, a little more than 60 percent of Americans favor U.S. participation in the Paris climate accord, though overall public support for the agreement has waned. The annual survey showed a 20-point drop in support from Republicans between 2016 and 2017, from 57 percent to 37 percent. Only 24 percent of core Trump supporters want the U.S. in the agreement, according to the report. About 83 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of independents continue to support U.S. involvement in the Paris Agreement, which compares to 87 percent and 68 percent, respectively, in 2016.
Ambassador Ivo Daalder, president of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former U.S. permanent representative to NATO, said that the report shows Trump maintaining his core support very well through the first six months. Gallagher called on the president to offer more details on what his “vision for victory” looks like.
“The Obama administration dipped its toe into the deep end on it a little bit, but you then could tell at the end of the day they were ambivalent, notwithstanding what Obama said at (National Defense University),” Gallagher said.
President Obama in May 2013 called for narrowing the scope of a global war on terror in order to specifically target radical groups.