CNN Poll: Trump SOTU a Bit of a Snoozer

President Trump delivering last year's State of the Union address. It was so pleasant and bipartisan that it put Paul Ryan to sleep.CNN

I guess last night’s State of the Union address wasn’t a big winner:

Almost half of Americans who watched President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address — 48% — say they had a “very positive” impression of the speech….It’s the lowest net positive rating for a State of the Union address since at least 1998, when CNN first asked the question. There is no equivalent poll for addresses before 1998.

The poll was conducted among a group of Americans who said in prior interviews that they planned to watch the speech and were willing to be contacted after its conclusion. People who choose to watch a political speech tend to be more supportive of the speaker than the general population; this sample was about 7 points more Republican than the entire American population.

I’m actually a little surprised by this. Liberal political junkies like us hated it, of course, but to the average ear I figured it sounded fairly conciliatory. Trump said he wanted to work with everyone, and the dog whistle stuff (standing for the national anthem, “Americans are dreamers too,” illegal immigrants are all killers and gang thugs) probably didn’t make much of an impression. And there were lots and lots of inspiring American heroes.

So if the speech got a weak reception, there are two alternatives. The first option is that average folks are pretty sophisticated and they understand insincerity and dog whistles as well as we do. The second option is that Republican-leaning audiences want red meat and they were disappointed not to get more of it.

In any case, this is another example of Trump picking and choosing what he says for different audiences. His tweets are aimed solely at his true-believer base. That’s why they’re so nuts. The SOTU is aimed at everyone, especially those who don’t pay much attention to politics and are tuning in for the first time in a while to see how Trump is doing. That’s why it was low key.

And Joe Kennedy’s response? It was red meat all the way. He probably figured—correctly—that hardly anyone watches the response except for diehard members of the opposition party, so that’s who it should appeal to.

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