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Commentary: Making America Feel Great Again

columnist Rob Port

MINOT, N.D. — Recently while interviewing Kelly Armstrong, a state Senator from Dickinson and a Republican candidate for North Dakota's U.S. House seat, he told me that he doesn't believe a "blue wave" is coming to North Dakota.

That's a term some commentators have used to describe the likelihood of Democratic gains this election year. You might expect a Republican like Armstrong to be dismissive, given where his interests lay, but there's data to support his conclusion.

In January of 2016, as the Barack Obama administration was winding down and Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were gearing up for an epic election year showdown, the folks at CNN released polling data they commissioned showing that most Americans felt things were going badly in the country.

"Overall, 57% say things in the country today are going badly, while 42% say they're going well," the cable news network reported at the time.

Sure, this is just one poll from one source, but can anyone doubt that circa 2016 a general malaise had fallen over our country?

Into that malaise, Trump injected his "Make America Great Again" mantra.

It resonated. Trump won. And now, according to CNN once again, Americans feel great again. Or, at least, greater than they did in 2016.

"Overall, 57% say things are going well in the U.S. today — up from 49% saying the same in February — which is the largest proportion to say so since January of 2007," CNN reported this week.

That's a massive swing in public opinion and President Trump is getting the credit.

Will there be a "blue wave" in America come election day 2018? Will Democrats be swept into majorities in Congress by a national electorate fed up with Trump's antics?

Maybe. Traditionally the party of the president doesn't do very well in the first midterm election of his time in office, but it's hard to know how true such conventions will hold in the Trump era.

Our president, you might have noticed, is unlike any politician our country has seen before. He tends to make his own weather, as far as political trends are concerned.

Which is why Democrats in states like North Dakota have spent so much time tip-toeing around the president.

That might be the surest sign that this polling from CNN is accurate.

Politicians invest a lot of money into determining which way the winds of public opinion are blowing. When they say things, or do things, it's usually a calculated response to something their pollsters have measured.

Trump has clearly maintained his popularity in states like North Dakota because Democrats here are selective in their criticism of him, and always quick to highlight a willingness to cooperate. But those efforts contrast sharply with the national messaging of the Democratic party, including their decision to file suit against the Trump campaign.

That cognitive dissonance will be a significant breakwater for any coming "blue wave."

Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, a North Dakota political blog, is a Forum Communications commentator. Follow him on Twitter at @RobPort

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