By BRIAN A. HOWEY

INDIANAPOLIS - Think about what has occurred this past week. Last Wednesday, President Trump talked of his unilateral trade war with China and said, “I am the chosen one,” before turning and looking up toward the heavens. He later said he was being “sarcastic.” Later at a Louisville AMVET appearance, President Trump awarded a Medal of Honor to veteran Woody Williams, then said, “Nothing like the Medal of Honor. I wanted one, but they told me I don’t qualify, Woody. I said, ‘Can I give it to myself anyway?’  They said, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea.’” He hasn’t been able to hold a policy position on gun reform and taxes.

This past weekend, he began the G7 weekend threatening China and U.S. corporations who do business there “ordering” them to come home, called President Xi an “enemy” before saying he had “second thoughts,” and ended in by claiming a phantom phone call saying President Xi wants a deal (psst, Mr. President, Xi can wait you out). Meanwhile, the Chinese are matching tariff for tariff, paid for by American consumers. 

He skipped an environmental meeting on the burning Amazon rainforest crisis. Trump pushed to include Russia in the next G7, this after President Putin has invaded two counties prompting his G8 explusion, and continues to assault U.S. elections (see Page 8). At a bizarre 68 minute press conference, Trump praised Putin and Kim Jong-Un.

This emerging dynamic is cautionary after a 2016 blue wave ended up in the Trump election miracle. But at this point, given the whiplash policy, a president who appears unstable, and a reelect based on racial exploitation, this is a landslide in the making if ... IF ... Democrats can nominate a coherent and credible nominee. 

Presidential

Trump poll disapproval at 62%

About 6 in 10 Americans disapprove of President Donald Trump’s overall job performance, according to a new poll released Thursday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which finds some support for the president’s handling of the U.S. economy but gives him weak marks on other major issues. Just 36% of Americans approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president; 62% disapprove. The numbers may be ugly for a first-term president facing reelection in 14 months, but they are remarkably consistent. Trump’s approval rating has never dipped below 32% or risen above 42% in AP-NORC polls since he took office. No other president has stayed within so narrow a band. Since Gallup began measuring presidential approval, Trump is the only president whose rating has never been above 50%. Still, several — Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush — logged ratings worse than Trump’s lowest rating so far at some point during their time in office.

Walsh to challenge Trump 

Joe Walsh, the ex-suburban Chicago GOP House member turned conservative talk show host who once backed President Donald Trump, on Sunday said he will challenge Trump in the GOP primary (Chicago Sun-Times). “I’m going to run for president. I’m going to challenge this guy,” Walsh told ABC “This Week” host George George Stephanopoulos. His slogan in his very longshot 2020 bid is “Be Brave,” Walsh said. “We’ve got a guy in the White House who is unfit, completely unfit to be president and it stuns me that nobody stepped up,” Walsh said. Walsh, no stranger to controversy and incendiary comments, said he knows he is “opening up my life” by taking on Trump, running from the right and making the moral argument that Trump is unfit for office. “I’m going to pound Trump every single day.”

Buttigieg draws white crowd in Chicago

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg held a self-described grassroots campaign rally in Bronzeville on Tuesday night, but the overwhelmingly white audience he drew to the event in a historic black neighborhood reinforced the difficulty the Democratic presidential hopeful has had in connecting with African- American voters (Chicago Tribune). Buttigieg did not acknowledge the makeup of the audience in his remarks or in answering questions from the 1,000 people at the sold-out event, but did touch on it briefly as he closed the hourlong rally with a plea for his supporters. ‘Find the people who don’t look like most of you in this room and let them know they have the chance, not just to support this campaign, but to shape it,’ Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg unveils opioid plan

Buttigieg laid out his vision to improve mental health care and battle the opioid and addiction crisis across the country, saying his comprehensive plan makes a true commitment to treating the mental health care crisis with the urgency it deserves, and offers a new approach to meeting our national challenge with community-based solutions. “For years, politicians in Washington have claimed to prioritize mental health care while slashing funding for treatment and ignoring America’s growing addiction and mental health crisis,” said Buttigieg. “That neglect must end. Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal.” Pete’s plan will result in: Preventing 1 million deaths of despair (to drugs, alcohol, and suicide) by 2028. Ensuring least 75% of people who need mental health or addiction services receive the care that they need, an increase of more than 10 million in Pete’s first term. Decreasing the number of people incarcerated due to mental illness or substance use by 75% by the end of his first term.

Pence, Haley rivalry taking shape

When top Republicans convened at the St. Regis resort in Aspen, Colo., last month for an exclusive donor retreat, several attendees said there was palpable tension in the room as the gathering’s two headliners prepared to speak: Vice President Mike Pence and former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley (Politico). The assembled group of governors, high-dollar donors, and operatives were well aware that the two have big ambitions; to some it seemed as if Pence and Haley, who spoke on back-to-back days, were vying for their attention. Some in the audience found themselves parsing and comparing the two speeches and buzzed they were getting a sneak preview of a 2024 Republican primary. Others recalled something peculiar: Neither Pence nor Haley acknowledged each other in their presentations, even though they gave shout-outs to others attending the retreat. The Pence team has recently asked senior Republicans for updates on Haley’s outreach to donors. And with Haley embarking on a national fundraising tour, top Pence advisers blame her for persistent rumors that she will replace him on the Trump’s ticket in 2020. Tensions flared after Haley chose not to publicly repudiate a Wall Street Journal column in June urging Trump to put her on the ticket. 

Trump approval sags in battlegrounds

President Trump’s net approval rating has plunged in every battleground state since taking office in January 2017, according to Morning Consult’s tracking poll (Axios).  “If this economy falters, then I think he’s a goner,” a top Republican operative with access to well-funded polling and focus groups told Axios’ Jonathan Swan. “And I think the Senate will be in trouble.” “We have a growing issue in the suburbs,” the operative continued. “We’re doing miserably in the suburbs, for Senate races and Republicans. And Trump is doing even worse.” One opening: The operative said that a good number of the suburban voters say they feel positively about Obamacare, but don’t like what they’re hearing in the Democratic debates about abolishing private health insurance. 

Trump approval +5 in Indiana

According to Morning Consult, President Trump has a +5 approval in Indiana. But that’s down significantly from his 19% plurality in the 2016 election.

Both parties seek to flip states

Both parties are already zeroing in on non-obvious battlegrounds they hope to flip, Axios’ Alayna Treene reports (Axios). The Trump campaign has its sights set on four states the president lost in 2016: Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire and New Mexico. “We are trying to actively expand the map — aggressively,” one official said. “These four states in particular are all areas [Trump campaign manager Brad] Parscale is set on winning.” The official added that the campaign, which is planning to beef up its communications and rapid response team with additional hires before the end of the year, will soon be flooding these states with stories that don’t get a lot of attention at the national level — such as Trump’s work on opioids and the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade deal. Dems hope to pick up Florida, North Carolina, Arizona, Texas and Georgia, campaign aides and Democratic strategists say. “The midterms were a strong indicator of the Dem energy in these states, particularly in Arizona, Florida and Texas, and set the groundwork for us to flip them,” one Democratic strategist said. A Trump campaign adviser conceded that Arizona, in particular, will be tough for Trump to hold onto.