Good morning, pals. The Trump presidency is six months old this week! What a calm and uneventful half-year it's been.

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-Aubrey Whelan

Today, let’s talk about approval ratings.

What’s at stake

President Trump has, shall we say, an unusual relationship with the polls. During the campaign, he was famous for touting the ones that favored him and slamming the ones that didn't. And now, as his presidency closes in on six months, he's got polls on the brain again — his approval ratings, which are historically low.

He spent part of his weekend tweeting about the latest Washington Post/ABC poll, which put his approval rating at 36 percent: "The ABC/Washington Post Poll, even though almost 40% is not bad at this time, was just about the most inaccurate poll around election time!" To recap: Polls are wrong, especially this one, but if it was right, it would be good.

"He cares deeply about public opinion and what people think about him, and he has his entire career," said Jon Cohen, the chief research officer at the polling software company SurveyMonkey. "He sees the twists and turns in polls that most regular people miss. And he knows how to go after a piece of bad information — and he does that effectively with polls. For his base, that dismissal works. "

The local(ish) angle

Go to any small town in a red state and you'll probably find a reporter from a big-city paper (including this one, last week!) kicking around, trying to gauge whether the president's voters still support him. But with all of us encased in our respective filter bubbles, it's worth looking at Trump's approval rating in the places that love him best. Take this NBC/Wall Street Journal poll looking at counties that, between 2012 and 2016, either flipped from Barack Obama to Trump or supported Trump far more enthusiastically than they did Mitt Romney.

On average, in those counties — including two in Pennsylvania — Trump's approval rating is at 50 percent, well ahead of his national approval ratings. That said, places that flipped from Obama to Trump, like PA's own Luzerne County, are much closer to his national rating, with only 44 percent of voters there approving of the president's job. And Trump won Luzerne with 58 percent of the vote.

What’s ahead

As the 2018 Congressional race looms — the first real test of how the Republican brand in the age of Trump — figuring out how the president's base is holding up is paramount. Popular wisdom in all those national-reporter-travels-to-Trump-country stories is that the president's supporters are holding strong, and, Five Thirty Eight reported this week, that still seems to be (mostly) the case — though strong support for him seems to be wavering. That said, we're only six months in and most of Trump's signature campaign promises are still working their way through Congress, so watch this space.

What they’re saying

"With only a very small majority, the Republicans in the House & Senate need more victories next year since Dems totally obstruct, no votes!" — President Trump on Twitter, looking to 2018.
— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, on the Senate’s second failed attempt to pass the Republican healthcare bill.

In other news…

  • With four Republican senators pulling their support, the Senate healthcare bill is dead, for the second time, and Republicans are now aiming to just repeal Obamacare entirely — and presumably spend the two years before the repeal would take effect crafting a third replacement bill. Passing a straight repeal is even more unlikely, the New York Times notes, because of the "turmoil" it could cause in insurance markets. (For what it's worth, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated a repeal-and-delay plan would cost 18 million people their insurance in the first year alone, though Republicans have balked at that estimate, saying by then they'd have a replacement plan in place.)
  • The House's budget plan is out, and it closely resembles the president's budget — big hikes in defense spending, big cuts almost everywhere else. One divergence: the House budget also includes cuts to Medicare and Social Security,two entitlements Trump promised he wouldn't touch. The budget committee votes on it Thursday.
  • The Trump administration is defending its controversial voter-fraud investigation panel in court after a privacy group filed suit.
  • Gov. Christie, noted meatloaf eater, weighs in on Donald Trump Jr.'s meeting with the Russians: "It was probably illegal." 

What I’m reading

A non-political palate cleanser

Part of the Philadelphia school district's art collection — which is worth up to $30 million, and was hidden away for more than a decade — is on display in a Doylestown art museum.