Donald Trump signed a contract with me and then violated it — and I think it’s going to cost him.
The president affixed his signature to a “Contract With The American Voter” (that’s me) in which he made 60 promises for his first 100 days in office, according to Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler.
In a tweet, Trump noted that 100 days was a “ridiculous standard.” And it is, except for the fact that he voluntarily created and signed a contract for that delivery date.
What do you think the folks at the Trump Organization would do if I signed a contract promising to pay them $100,000 in 100 days and instead brought a check for $8,333 and claimed 100 days was an arbitrary and ridiculous standard?
I think they’d hold me to it anyway.
My guess is there would be some lawyers — or worse — coming after me pretty quickly.
Trump may not fully comprehend this, because usually he is the one reneging on contracts and leaving creditors afraid to come after him. But the American people are one piper that must be paid.
As arbitrary and capricious as the 100-day deadline may be, is there anything we can usefully see from this vantage point, other than Trump’s almost unique penchant for getting himself in trouble?
It turns out we can see how heavy a lift it will be for him to get himself politically prepared for the 2018 midterm elections.
New presidents normally bring with them a reservoir of support from various elements of the political spectrum.
On average, at the 100-day point, 65 percent of American voters have approved of the job they have done. That’s exactly where President Barack Obama was at this stage.
The tendency is for that good will to dissipate as presidents are forced to make decisions which inevitably lead some to be upset and as they assume responsibility for problems unsolved or newly created.
Since the advent of polling, every president but two has been less popular at midterm than at the 100-day mark. On average, approval ratings fell by 11 points in that period.
The two Bushes broke the mold, holding their approval ratings steady. In both cases it was because of war: George H.W. Bush saw his ratings improve as he committed troops to the first Gulf War, while George W. Bush embarked on the War in Afghanistan just after Sept. 11.
In every other case, approval ratings fell from the end of the first 100 days until midterm Election Day.
Today, the president’s approval rating clocks in at an anemic 40 percent — 25 points below average, and 15 points below the next lowest performance.
The relationship between presidential approval and midterm House elections is well established. In general, the lower the president’s approval rating, the more seats his party loses in the midterm elections.
On average, presidents with approval ratings below 45 percent at the midterm lose 32 seats.
There is nothing fixed or inevitable about those numbers. Events could improve the president’s standing; races tend to be less competitive these days, and Trump may simply beat the odds. He has before.
But if I was a Republican House member looking at a president who had broken his contract with America and was saddled with a 40 percent approval rating, I might just start to panic.
Mellman is president of The Mellman Group and has helped elect 30 U.S. senators, 12 governors and dozens of House members. Mellman served as pollster to Senate Democratic leaders for over 20 years.