Part of adding context to the Oval Office/Reality TV exchange among President Trump, Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer on Tuesday involves the exit surveys of Ohio voters last month. On Election Day, 38 percent of voters told pollsters they viewed health care as the “most important issue facing the country.”

No issue rated higher. And the second most important? Twenty-five percent identified immigration. The economy landed third (21 percent) and gun policy placed fourth (12 percent). That second place for immigration represented a leap ahead, just 13 percent of Ohio voters viewing the issue as most important in 2016.

Two years ago, Donald Trump carried those voters by 31 percentage points. How did they break more recently in the governor’s race? Mike DeWine prevailed with that quarter of the electorate by a stunning 67 percentage points — 83 percent to 16 percent.

Put another way, the president knows what he is doing when he proclaims, as he did with the Democratic congressional leaders nearby and the press recording the event: “We need border security. People are pouring into our country, including terrorists.” He did as much warning repeatedly during the fall campaign about the menace lurking in the “caravan” making its way from Central America, across Mexico, to the southern border.

The president played to fears and prejudices, and the exit polls reveal that this year a larger share of Ohio voters came away persuaded by his words. So he sees a political advantage in delivering such performances.

The trouble is that the president misrepresents reality. He tells a fictional account of the border, as the fact-checkers quickly made plain this week.

For instance, contrary to the president’s assertions, “a lot of the wall” has not been built. None has been constructed. So, when the president talks about “illegal traffic” declining at such levels as 92 percent, 72 percent and 95 percent at various places, it isn’t because of the wall. Rather, immigration at the southern border has declined at a marked rate since its recent peak in the early 2000s. The Washington Post noted that in 2000, federal authorities reported 1.6 million apprehensions at the southwest border — and nearly 304,000 last year.

The president isn’t the first to raise illegal immigration. The decline in apprehensions points to the substantial efforts of the Bush and Obama administrations to improve border security.

Terrorists do seek to enter the country, almost all at airports. Drugs enter, too, mostly through legal ports of entry, hidden in containers, the synthetic opioid fentanyl shipped by mail from China. A wall along the southern border would make little difference.

The spectacle in the Oval Office began as a discussion about a potential budget deal to avoid a government shutdown. A compromise is within reach, Democrats and Republicans on board. It includes $1.67 billion for enhanced border security. It lacks the $5 billion the president seeks as a down payment on the wall, his total cost $25 billion. (What happened to Mexico paying for it?)

The president wasn’t interested in resolving the budget matter, indicating his willingness to own a shutdown. He blustered, just as he has in failing to take the lead in crafting the necessary compromise to address the country’s real immigration problems. Instead, the focus became the wall, an idea he has yet to justify with evidence, leaving him to insist on something colossally wasteful.