In response to some disappointing results in the Supreme Court this week, the President wondered aloud today on Twitter: "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?"
Sort of. A better way of putting this goes back to the Chief Justice's famous line in his confirmation hearing about being an umpire calling balls and strikes. As sports fans know all too well, though, star players gets more than their fair share of favorable calls. Perhaps that's because they command more respect from the referees. Perhaps it's because the referees think that they will get criticized more if they make a call against a star. Whatever the reason, that sort of bias is probably real.
A similar thought works for a president and the Supreme Court. Unpopular presidents fare worse in close cases that directly concern them. It's no coincidence that two of the leading decisions curbing presidential power (Youngstown and Nixon) came when President Truman and then President Nixon had approval ratings in the 20s. To some extent, this is just the Madisonian system: When one branch is weak the other branches try to take advantage. Strong presidents don't always win, of course, but they are more likely to win.
We won't know until the tax return cases are decided whether the Court is truly treating President Trump as a benchwarmer. But things are trending in that direction.