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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

An odd paradox in defining this moment in politics: The more President Trump does, says and tweets outrageous things, the more his critics go bananas and the better he does in the polls. 

The big picture: Our parallel universes are spinning farther apart. The coverage (and much of the reality) is a White House in chaos, and an erratic president improvising as his own policy adviser, chief of staff, comms director and tweeter-in-chief.

Tune into Twitter, and you'd think the entire civilized world has turned against him. And yet:

  • Gallup has Trump's approval at a new high since the beginning of his presidency: 45%. That's roughly the same as others at this point: Barack Obama (46%), Bill Clinton (46%), Ronald Reagan (45%) and Jimmy Carter (43%).
  • Support among Republicans is 90% in Gallup, also a high.
  • Among independents, he's up to 42% — tied for his personal best, and only the fourth week in his presidency that he has been at 40% or above.
  • Trump's attacks on Mueller are working, too: The special counsel has a 53% unfavorable rating in Morning Consult polling — a new high, and a whopping 26-point spike since July of 2017

Trump thinks he has found a winning formula, his advisers tell Axios. And he might be right:

  • The more he trashes Mueller, and the more he trashes the media and the media trashes him, the more Republicans want to have his back.
  • And the more casual viewers see everything like the Russia probe as messy and muddy, not just Trump.
  •  Our politics are becoming ever more tribal, and his voters are numb to the outrageousness.
  • It's arguably the most cynical strategy imaginable. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be successful politically. 

Be smart: The rise in Trump’s numbers, and the shrinking Democratic advantage in House races, are reinforcing Trump’s worship of his own instincts on policy.

  • Except many of these choices may make his reelection even more dependent on his worshipful base, and less appealing to swing voters.
  • It’s a circular political strategy that relies on ignoring independent voters, and assuming they won’t turn out.
  • It creates a narrow, treacherous path to reelection.

Go deeper:

Editor's Note: Sign up for Axios newsletters to get our Smart Brevity delivered to your inbox every morning.

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Go deeper

25 mins ago - World

China and Russia vaccinate the world — for now

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

While the U.S. and Europe focus on vaccinating their own populations, China and Russia are sending millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses to countries around the world.

Why it matters: China's double success in controlling its domestic outbreak and producing several viable vaccines has allowed it to focus on providing doses abroad — an effort that could help to save lives across several continents.

Ina Fried, author of Login
34 mins ago - Technology

Report: China will dominate AI unless U.S. invests more

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photo: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The U.S., which once had a dominant head start in artificial intelligence, now has just a few year's lead on China and risks being overtaken unless government steps in, according to a new report to Congress and the White House.

Why it matters: Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who chaired the committee that issued the report, tells Axios that the U.S. risks dire consequences if it fails to both invest in key technologies and fully integrate AI into the military.

Americans agree about more issues than they realize

Data: Populace Inc.; Chart: Michelle McGhee/Axios

Many Americans assume the rest of the country doesn't share their political and policy priorities — but they're often wrong, according to new polling by Populace, first seen by Axios.

Why it matters: The polling reveals that despite growing political polarization, Americans share similar long-term goals and priorities for the country.