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How Donald Trump Is Splitting the Republican Party in Two

The differences between the two groups — on their views of GOP leaders, immigration and race — are fascinating.
Image: Donald Trump Campaigns In Youngstown, Ohio
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally on October 27, 2016 at the Spire Institute in Geneva, Ohio.Jeff Swensen / Getty Images file

First Read is your briefing from Meet the Press and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.

We now have data to prove that today’s Republican Party is split in two — between a Trump Party and your more traditional GOP.

This week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll asked this question to Republican voters: Do you consider yourself to be more a supporter of Trump or a supporter of the Republican Party? Fifty-eight percent of them answered Trump, and 38 percent said the GOP.

The Trump supporters are more likely to hail from rural areas and to be men, while Republican Party supporters are more likely to be women and residents of the suburbs. And the differences between them — on their views of GOP leaders, immigration and race — are fascinating.

Approve of Trump’s job performance

  • Trump supporters: 99 percent
  • Party supporters: 84 percent

Views of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

  • Trump supporters: 13 percent positive, 34 percent negative
  • Party supporters: 36 percent positive, 14 percent negative

Views of House Speaker Paul Ryan

  • Trump supporters: 35 percent positive, 33 percent negative
  • Party supporters: 71 percent positive, 9 percent negative

Satisfied with GOP leaders

  • Trump supporters: 27 percent
  • Party supporters: 51 percent

Support birthright citizenship — that all children born in U.S. should be granted citizenship

  • Trump supporters: 30 percent
  • Party supporters: 47 percent


  • Trump supporters: 15 percent
  • Party supporters: 32 percent

Approve of Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio

  • Trump supporters: 73 percent
  • Party supporters: 50 percent

Approve of Trump’s handling of race relations

  • Trump supporters: 72 percent
  • Party supporters: 38 percent

Approve of Trump’s handling of the environment and climate change

  • Trump supporters: 65 percent
  • Party supporters: 37 percent

Approve of Trump’s use of Twitter

  • Trump supporters: 50 percent
  • Party supporters: 31 percent

Approve of Trump’s handling of Charlottesville

  • Trump supporters: 55 percent
  • Party supporters: 31 percent

Eight months into Trump’s presidency, the Republican Party is fundamentally divided over these issues. And it will revealing to see what these numbers look like a year from now, as well as in 2020.

The Battle in ‘Bama: Trump campaigns for Strange tonight

Given this divide, it’s striking that President Trump is headed to Alabama tonight to campaign for the ESTABLISHMENT-backed Luther Strange, who’s facing off Tuesday against the INSURGENT candidate Roy Moore. So in this case, Trump is backing the Republican Party’s candidate over the Trump Party’s candidate.

But as yesterday’s Strange-vs.-Moore debate showed, both candidates hugged Trump — especially Strange. NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald: “Strange mentioned his support from Trump and relationship with the president repeatedly throughout the debate.”

“Who does the President support? The president supports me. If you have not followed the President on Twitter, I urge you do so. He just tweeted a great tweet out about his enthusiastic support for my campaign and me,” Strange said at the debate, per NBC’s Adam Naboa.

Moore responded, “Well I’m certainly glad I’m not running against the President of the United States. Nor am I running against the Vice President of the United States and I can’t tell you what he thinks. Every move he makes. When he goes to the bathroom. When he doesn’t like my opponent.”

Trump’s rally for Strange takes place in Huntsville, Ala., at 8:15 pm ET.

State Medicaid directors ask Senate Republicans to slow down on Graham-Cassidy

In the health-care debate, the latest group to question the Graham-Cassidy legislation was the National Association of Medicaid Directors, who argued in a statement that block-granting health funds would only complicate things for the states.

“The Graham-Cassidy legislation would require states to operationalize the block grant component by January 1, 2020. The scope of this work, and the resources required to support state planning and implementation activities, cannot be overstated. States will need to develop overall strategies, invest in infrastructure development, systems changes, provider and managed care plan contracting, and perform a host of other activities. The vast majority of states will not be able to do so within the two-year timeframe envisioned here, especially considering the apparent lack of federal funding in the bill to support these critical activities,” they said.

The state Medicaid directors asked for the Senate to slow down – and at least get a CBO score before voting. “Any effort of this magnitude needs thorough discussion, examination and analysis, and should not be rushed through without proper deliberation. The legislative proposal would not even have a full CBO score until after its scheduled passage, which should be the bare minimum required for beginning consideration. With only a few legislative days left for the entire process to conclude, there clearly is not sufficient time for policymakers, Governors, Medicaid Directors, or other critical stakeholders to engage in the thoughtful deliberation necessary to ensure successful long-term reforms.”

War of words between Trump and Kim Jong Un

NBC’s Phil McCausland: “North Korea's leader called President Donald Trump ‘a frightened dog’ and a ‘gangster fond of playing with fire’ in an official statement released Thursday... ‘Far from making remarks of any persuasive power that can be viewed to be helpful to defusing tension, he made unprecedented rude nonsense one has never heard from any of his predecessors,’ Kim said. ‘A frightened dog barks louder.’”

More from Kim Jong Un: "I will surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged U.S. dotard with fire.”

Trump returned the verbal fire over Twitter: “Kim Jong Un of North Korea, who is obviously a madman who doesn't mind starving or killing his people, will be tested like never before!”

Facebook to hand over its 2016 ads to Congress

“Facebook is turning over to Congress thousands of advertisements suspected to be linked to the Russian attempt to undermine last year's presidential election, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday,” NBC News reports.

“This month, a Facebook investigation found a suspected Russian operation spent $100,000 on issues-related advertisements from June 2015 to May 2017.”

President Trump responded to Facebook’s news by once again calling the Russia investigation a hoax. “The Russia hoax continues, now it's ads on Facebook. What about the totally biased and dishonest Media coverage in favor of Crooked Hillary?” he tweeted.

By if it’s a hoax, why are there a special counsel and multiple congressional committees investigating the matter?

Germany holds its elections on Sunday

And finally, Germany holds its elections on Sunday, and NBC News takes a look at the race – and how Germans view Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Analysts say the 63-year-old Merkel’s trustworthiness, down-to-earth style and centrist policies have endeared her to German voters. Combined with a healthy economy and global uncertainty, that reputation has made her a tough incumbent to beat and given her party a double-digit lead in the polls over the Social Democrats (SPD) and their candidate Martin Schulz.”