As political and legal troubles mount, President Donald Trump holds ever tighter onto a base of support that grows ever smaller.
Last night, Trump traveled for the second time in 10 days to West Virginia, the small conservative state that gave him 68 percent of the vote last November. He basked in the applause of the crowd while ridiculing the news that the Justice Department special counsel has impaneled a grand jury in Washington.
Last week, after the failure of health-care legislation he championed, the president stood before law enforcement officers and talked about rougher treatment for criminal suspects. His message — which roused blue-collar white backers in 2016 amid high-profile controversies over police use of deadly force against black citizens — was so jarring that police chiefs disavowed it.
Before that, Trump embraced the sensibilities of cultural conservatives by tweeting out a directive that transgender soldiers could no longer serve in the U.S. military. So abrupt was that order that military commanders, taken by surprise, declined to immediately implement it.
In some ways, the president's approach is no surprise. It mirrors his strategy in 2016, when the intense backing he enjoyed in a handful of key swing states propelled him to the White House even as he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.
In campaigning and governing alike, all political strategists prize intense enthusiasm among their backers as a means of overcoming opposition that might be broader but more passive. That's how the National Rifle Association, for example, consistently defeats gun control measures that polls show are popular.