President Trump is still popular in core Republican strongholds, even though he has suffered a dip in the national public opinion polls.
Trump's approval rating is 45 percent, an underwater mark previously unseen for a president this early in his first term. But Trump's image and his policies are holding up just fine among voters in Republican districts and states key to the president's ability to drive his agenda through Congress, and his party's success in 2018.
"The bad news for you and your colleagues is that writing about the national numbers in this environment is a useless exercise," said David Carney, a veteran Republican operative in New Hampshire who has advised presidential candidates. "People are arguing over Super Bowl ads, the country is divided."
While his national numbers aren't good, Trump is much stronger in the states that could decide the outcome of the midterm elections, according to Republican operatives who have reviewed polling produced since New Year's Day. For now, that suggests Democrats are less likely to benefit from the president's struggles nationally than has been the case in past election cycles.
Like Trump's loss of the national popular vote, Republican operatives say the president's high disapproval numbers are being driven by dissatisfaction with his leadership in progressive, high-population metro centers, like Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York.
The midterm elections, however, are going to be fought on Senate battlegrounds that include red states like Missouri and West Virginia and swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — all won by Trump.
Missouri is a perfect example. Trump won the state handily in November and lifted Republicans down ticket. And yet, it's there that vulnerable senators like Claire McCaskill, a Democrat running in a red state, need to find a way to win if Democrats are to have a shot at putting a check on the president in the midterm.
It won't be easy for McCaskill. A survey of 863 likely Missouri voters conducted Thursday and Friday pegged Trump's job performance at 47 percent approve/43 percent disapprove — better than the national average. His controversial executive order "related to immigration" polled higher, at 50 percent approve/41 percent disapprove.
The poll, by the GOP firm Remington Research, headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., had a margin of error of 3.85 percentage points. When the survey is broken down by major media markets, it's even more revealing, and offers an example of what is happening nationally.
Trump's approval rating in Missouri is weakest in Columbia (19 percent), home of the University of Missouri, and weaker in the states' two liberal-leaning, major metropolitan regions — Kansas City and St. Louis — than it is in the rest of the state, which is solidly Republican.
Across the state, support for Trump's executive order pertaining to immigration from seven predominantly Muslim countries was higher among likely voters than support for president personally.
In Columbia, approval for the executive order was 23 percent, 4 points higher than the college town rated Trump's job performance. In Kansas City, the action received a 45 percent approval, 3 points above the president's job approval, and in St. Louis, the order faired 1 point better. The margins were similar in the state's other main media markets.
"He is a disaster for sure. Funny thing is, back home, it's just not that way," a Republican insider from Missouri said, comparing the perception of Trump nationally versus states like his.
Michael Meyers, a Republican strategist who has conducted some initial polling across multiple states, said he has seen the same phenomenon elsewhere. He declined to elaborate because the survey data is proprietary.
But Meyers, referring to Republican voters generally, not just Trump's loyal base, said there are no signs of erosion of support for the president among GOP voters. Meanwhile, liberals are as mad at him as ever, while skeptical independents are in a wait-and-see mode.
In other words, Trump isn't any worse off today, politically, than he was on Election Day.
"Generally Obama enjoyed higher ratings on anything touching on him personally, but support for his specific policies, often lagged in comparison," Meyers said. "Trump is the opposite. Some people may not approve of him personally, but they are showing stronger support for his proposals and policy ideas."