United States President Donald Trump said on Saturday that his upcoming summit with Kim Jong Un was a “one-time shot” for the North Korean leader. (June 9) AP
WASHINGTON â€” When it comes to international affairs, President Trumpâ€™s meeting with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un is fraught with the potential for misunderstanding and renewed tension between two nuclear powers.
But in terms of this yearâ€™s midterm elections, where control of the House of Representatives hangs in the balance, analysts mostly see upside for the president and his party.
Trump is preparing to meet Kim on Tuesday morning in Singapore, the culmination of an on-again-off-again effort to bring together two leaders who less than a year ago were trading threats of a military confrontation on the Korean Peninsula.
A new pollÂ shows Trump is heading into the historic meeting with support from a wide swath of Americans, but also that expectations are low enough the president has room to claim victory in all but the most disastrous outcomes.
â€śIt does give the president an opportunity to claim success with the American people,â€ť said Shibley Telhami, a government and politics professor and director of the University of Maryland Critical Issues Poll.
Just more than a third of Americans, a plurality, believe Trump will make progress on â€śsome issuesâ€ť but not on the thorny problem of denuclearization, according to the poll.Â Nearly three in 10 said they expect the summit to fail, with different expectations for the consequences of that outcome.
A third of Americans â€” including 17% of independents â€” said the run up to the summit gave them a more positive view of Trump, compared with 14%Â who said it created more negative feelings and nearly half who said Trumpâ€™s diplomatic efforts in Asia had no impact on their views of him.
Many of those numbers were influenced by partisan divisions.
â€śI expect the reaction to be partisan because our partisan divide is so deep that it is overtaking any objective analysis of consequences,â€ť Telhami said. Â
Analysts said Trump can claim victory if some progress with North Korea is achieved, but could just as easily energize his base by reverting to tough talk and the threat of increased sanctions on North Korea if the summit tanks.
“The fact that he is about to have a photo with the leader of North Korea, that is a big deal,” saidÂ Frank Luntz, a Republican political consultant. “The visual is 10 times more important than the words.”Â Â
The president himself has tried to lower expectations of a breakthrough agreement. Trump repeatedly stressed in recent days he doesnâ€™t anticipate much from his first meeting with Kim, other than progress on building a relationship that has been virtually non-existent for decades. Real progress, he has said, will come over time.Â Â
On the other hand, Trump said last week during a press conference with Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe that he â€śabsolutelyâ€ť could see signing an agreement with Kim to end the Korean War. Responding to questions from reporters, Trump also said he envisioned inviting Kim to the White House if talks in Singapore go well.
Even before the meeting with Kim got underway, Trumpâ€™s campaign touted the progress that led to the talks. In announcing the presidentâ€™s appearance at a rally in Minnesota later this month, a campaign official said Monday that Trump is prepared to speak with voters there about his â€śhistoric summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un,â€ť along with other issues.
Talk of a blue wave this year that would give Democrats control of Congress has been thrown into question by a strong economy as well as a small, but steady increase in Trumpâ€™s approval since its nadir last year.
The RealClearPolitics average of polls put Trumpâ€™s approval at nearly 43%, with 53%Â of Americans disapproving of his tenure.
For supporters, the Singapore summit and Trumpâ€™s public battle with North American and European allies following the G-7 summit over the weekend speaks toÂ promises he made during the campaign. He ran in large part on tearing up trade agreements. And, as a candidate, Trump said he would â€śhave no problemâ€ť meeting with Kim.
â€śFirst, a sizable amount of swing voters, including blue collar Democrats, think America has been getting sand kicked in their face for too long. I believe they view the presidentâ€™s bold action as restoring Americaâ€™s role of leading from the front,â€ť said John Brabender, a GOP political consultant.
â€śSecond, if the administration is able to make significant progress at the summit, an increasing number of voters will conclude that Trumpâ€™s less than traditional managerial style is actually producing results,â€ť he said.
Critics have questioned the message it sends that the president has softened his rhetoric on North Korea ahead of the summit with Kim while sharpening public spats over trade with allies such as the European Union, Canada and Mexico. Trump has said he is shunning the term â€śmaximum pressureâ€ť to describe the U.S. posture toward Pyongyang ahead of the talks with Kim.
But Trump blasted Canadian Prime MinisterÂ Justin TrudeauÂ as “dishonest” and “weak” afterÂ Trudeau said in a press conference that his country would not be bullied by the United States. Trump imposed steep metal tariffs on both Canada andÂ Mexico, and both countries are considering retaliatory trade barriers.Â Â Â
Trumpâ€™s moves on trade have driven a wedge between the White House and some farm state Republicans, whose constituents could take the heaviest hit in a full-blown trade war. A bipartisan group of lawmakers is working on legislation to limit the presidentâ€™s ability to impose tariffs, but itâ€™s not clear the measure has enough GOP support to advance.
Luntz said that the narrative connecting the Singapore and G-7 summits is that the old rules of foreign diplomacy no longer apply. He said that while some of Trump’s moves overseas make him and other Republicans nervous, it dovetails with the president’s message of American strength.Â Â
“Right now, Trump is framing it incredibly well,” he said.Â Â
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