Have conservatives turned on Donald Trump?

President labelled a ‘wimp’ as normally loyal supporters in the media attack him for border wall ‘capitulation’

Donald Trump at the White House
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is facing a growing conservative backlash after appearing to cave in over demands for funding for a border wall with Mexico, in what many see as a defining moment for his presidency.

The president announced on Friday that he was temporarily ending the longest government shutdown in US history, without securing around $5bn for the border wall – his main campaign pledge.

The BBC says his decision to end the impasse was driven by a number of factors including delays at major airports that left thousands stranded, the threat 800,000 federal workers would not receive a second monthly paycheck, fears the shutdown could have a serious impact on an already fragile US economy and warnings from several agencies that the wider American public would soon begin to feel its effects.

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Publicly, the White House has insisted that the president’s decision was not a concession, but “instead of emerging victorious, many of Trump's allies are walking away from a record-breaking government shutdown feeling outplayed, not least by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi”, says CNN.

The president is now more unpopular than he was before the shutdown began, with the majority of American’s blaming the White House not Congress for the 35-day lapse in funding.

A Washington Post-ABC poll released on Friday showed that the president’s disapproval rating climbed from 53% to 58% between November and January.

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“For some Republicans, slipping up politically so soon after the Democrats took control of the House of Representatives sends a worrying signal,” says the Financial Times.

“For a president already dealing with crises on several fronts, the government shutdown has dented his re-election hopes,” reports City A.M.

“That decision — and seeming capitulation — immediately caught the ire of conservative commentators who raised the issue as proving Trump lacked the backbone necessary for tough negotiations,” says The Independent.

Influential conservative commentator Ann Coulter mocked the president as a “wimp”, having previously said Trump would be “dead in the water” if he did not fulfill his promise to build a wall.

“Trump will just have been a joke presidency who scammed the American people, amused the populists for a while, but he'll have no legacy whatsoever,” she warned.

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Another conservative commentator, Mike Cernovich, said that the president was now “a broken man”, while the top two trending topics on the right-wing publication Breitbart on Sunday were “Pelosi Trumps Trump” and “Govt open – Border too”.

The news site, which was once run by Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon and been one of the staunchest supporters of the president in the press, also carried extensive coverage of how Trump has been mocked for being “dog walked” by Pelosi and demonstrating “the Art of the Cave”.

Trump has long used the mainstream media as a political punching bag to energise his supporters.

Now with the Mueller investigation closing in and a new political reality in Washington, what is worrying for the president and his advisors is that his friends in the media have started to turn on him as well – just when he needs their support most.

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