ATLANTA – In a week of events designed to promote his first 100 days in office, President Trump would be hard-pressed to find a more supportive group than the one he speaks to Friday: The National Rifle Association.
The gun-loving crowd that gathered to cheer on the president at this year’s NRA convention also underscores the fact that, despite the political travails and low approval ratings of his early months in office, the unorthodox president retains strong support among the kinds of conservative Republicans who gave him victory in November.
“The gun owners are middle America,” said Ron Sasaki, 49, a police officer from western Washington state and member of a group called AmericanSnipers.org. “We relate to him more, and he relates to us more, than regular politicians.”
As volunteers and vendors set up booths throughout the cavernous Georgia World Congress Center – “15 Acres of Guns & Gear,” the signs say – they spoke fondly of Trump as he prepares to become only the second president to address the annual NRA convention. The first was Ronald Reagan in 1983.
Carol Rosenqvist, a retired businesswoman and member of the Georgia Sport Shooting Association, said Trump “believes in the Constitution, he believes in the Second Amendment … The Second Amendment is the freedom that has given us all the others.”
In addition to gun rights, Trump’s backers in the NRA orbit lauded his efforts to stop illegal immigration and confront North Korea over its nuclear weapons. They attacked his critics, be they congressional Democrats or federal judges who ruled against his proposed travel ban on the grounds that it discriminates against Muslims.
Like their president, NRA backers expressed frustration with government in general. “We’re taxpayers. We pay for this mess, and this is what we get?” said retired law enforcement officer Dave Jossart of Green Bay, Wisc., another member of AmericanSnipers.com, which raises money to supply gear for U.S. military snipers.
Trump is also expected to be greeted by some of his critics in Atlanta on Friday.
Gun control advocates, arguing that the proliferation of weapons have contributed to a plague of mass shootings in recent years, are planning to stage a “die-in” – a protest where people will lie on the ground pretending to be victims of gun violence – in Woodruff Park, near the downtown convention center that is hosting the NRA.
As Trump barrels toward his 100th day on Saturday, capping a busy week of executive order signings, public remarks, and special events his administration organized to mark the occasion, his supporters appear to be in the minority nationally.
A series of polls give Trump record-low approval ratings for a new president, though they do reveal strong support among Republicans.
A recent ABC News/Washington Post survey, while giving Trump an overall approval rating of only 42%, said that 96% of the people who voted for him last November still back him. The poll also Trump would win a hypothetical re-match with Democrat Hillary Clinton, 43% to 40%.
“I think it is still early in his presidency, and most Republicans continue to give Trump the benefit of the doubt,” said Sean Trende, senior elections analyst for the RealClearPolitics website. “Plus, he’s generally doing Republican things.”
Holding the Republican base could help GOP candidates as the party seeks to keep control of the House and Senate in next year’s congressional elections, and Trump when he seeks re-election in 2020.
However, it doesn’t help much right now in dealing with lawmakers who might be more pliable for a president with higher approval ratings among independents and conservative Democrats.
Mark McKinnon, a former aide to President George W. Bush and producer of the Showtime documentary series The Circus, said support that only comes from the political base “is good enough to win elections; I don’t know if it’s good enough to govern.”
The Trump effect on elections will soon be getting a test in the same state where the NRA convention is being held. The Georgia special election to replace U.S. Rep. Tom Price, now Trump’s secretary of health and human services, is turning out to be a closer race than expected.
While in Atlanta on Friday, Trump will headline a fundraiser for Republican candidate Karen Handel, who finished a distant second in a first round election this month to Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff. Democrats are predicting a win in the GOP-leaning district, thanks to general antipathy to Trump.
Trump has long boasted support from the NRA, which endorsed him in May of last year. The gun rights group, well organized and well financed, helped juice voter turnout for the Republican ticket in the fall, and claimed a share of the credit for Trump’s victory.
In a letter to members attending the convention, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said the association “helped make the critical difference that pushed Trump over the top.” Now, he said, the NRA must defend Trump against protesters, “media lies,” and “the political spin of the Left” designed to “ruin” his chances for success.
“These are the very same groups who, if they could, would also destroy our NRA and our Second Amendment freedom,” LaPierre said. “They’re going after the president to come after us next.”
Trump isn’t perfect, gun owners said – but they like him.
Karen Cooper, a retired teacher and member of the Georgia Sport Shooting Association, said the president “sometimes needs to think before he speaks,” especially on Twitter. “I really don’t think that tweeting has a place with the president,” she said.
Despite his itchy Twitter trigger finger, Cooper said she is confident Trump is headed in the right direction: “I don’t think he’s going to be pushed around.”
News source – usa today