Democrats may have secured some wins at the midterm election, but Donald Trump still manages to attract his base to vote. (AP: Evan Vucci)
Day one after the midterm elections and Donald Trump holds a wide-ranging and at times aggressive press conference, gets into a shouting match with a reporter and then sacks the Attorney-General.
Welcome to the next two years, folks.
Democrats did well at the midterms. They took the House, opening the way for a check and balance on a volatile President.
In an environment where he almost entirely controls the narrative, this was no mean feat.
However, did Americans reject Donald Trump? No.
If Democrats want to win the 2020 election they’re going to have to stop expecting Americans to suddenly repudiate him.
After two years of handwringing, enough already.
Of course the President would spin the result as a win, however in this case it’s not a complete fudge.
Over the last 21 elections the party of the incumbent President has lost an average of 30 seats at midterm elections. People like to use them to send a message halfway through a term, to fire a warning shot before the next Presidential poll.
Remember when Republicans took control of the house when they flipped a whopping 64 seats in 2010 during the Obama years? Usually, you’d expect the opposition party to flip about four Senate seats as well.
So, with a projected net seat change of 27 in the House and Republicans taking seats in the Senate, the Democrats are on track for a solid but not spectacular result.
And for those who expected a tsunami of Americans to reject Mr Trump’s hard-line immigration stance, his bulldog approach to world affairs and trade, his sometimes xenophobic, racist, sexist and contradictory rhetoric, his attacks on the press, his erratic tweeting, his belligerence, out of some sort of epiphany of conscience: it’s time to wake up and realise that’s not going to happen.
Yes, there was pushback from women, moderates, young people and wealthy suburban folks, in several house seats that he just grasped in 2016.
Nate Cohn tweet: “Our current turnout estimate is 114 million votes cast in the House, breaking even our high expectations (we started at 102 iirc) and shattering the turnout of 83 million in 2014”
But the country remains horribly split as his deeper red and rural support consolidates.
As he said in his wide-ranging (and at times bizarre) press conference after the result, “I think they like me,” and by that he means that many of those who voted Republican endorse his policies, rhetoric and behaviour.
Tamara Keith twitter: “Preliminary results of my analysis of @realDonaldTrump’s endorsements on twitter.”
Matt Viser tweet: “”I think people like me.” — President Trump on the lesson he took away from midterm results”
And much as he’s said of late that he could have been softer, that he would like to be softer, he knows that his supporters like him because he’s not. So don’t expect that to change any time soon.
There was this exchange with CNN’s Jim Acosta at the above press conference which kind of proves my point.
The President says he would “like to see bipartisanship” and unity and that he’s willing to work with Democrats, however, if they go for him like we expect them to, all bets will be off.
All of this poses a complex quandary for Democrats, who are going to want to use their newfound power to kickstart investigations into the administration, seek the President’s tax returns, protect special counsel Bob Mueller and kick around the idea of impeachment, but in doing so may well shoot themselves in the foot politically.
Republicans will hate them, vitriol will increase and if they are seen to be entirely frustrators rather than legislators in two years’ time, they’re going nowhere fast.
Donald Trump tweet: “If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level, then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!”
Donald Trump twitter: “According to NBC News, Voters Nationwide Disapprove of the so-called Mueller Investigation (46%) more than they Approve (41%). You mean they are finally beginning to understand what a disgusting Witch Hunt, led by 17 Angry Democrats, is all about!”
Oh, just on Mr Mueller by the way, Attorney-General Jeff Sessions has been sacked which will compound long-held concern that the President will attempt to shut down the probe.
Uh huh. I know.
In a letter to the President, Mr Sessions said “at your request I am submitting my resignation …”
This is major, do not look away.
Mr Sessions has been in the President’s sights since he recused himself from the Russia probe due to dealings that were exposed with the Russian ambassador.
So there’s that!
It goes to the general midterms fallout as Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell re-upped the term “presidential harassment”, laying the groundwork to turn the Democrats into the villains for what may be perfectly legitimate investigations but will infuriate Mr Trump’s supporters, who say Democrats have been trying to bring him undone since the moment he took office — if not before.
“The whole issue of presidential harassment is interesting,” Mr McConnell said, by way of warning.
“I remember when we tried it in the late 90s — we impeached President Clinton. His numbers went up and ours went down,” and GOP underperformed in 1998.
Rebecca Shabad tweet: “McConnell warns Dems against trying to obtain Trump’s tax returns. “The whole issue of presidential harassment is interesting. I remember when we tried it in the late 90s — we impeached President Clinton. His numbers went up and ours went down” and GOP underperformed in 1998.”
Jon Lemire twitter: “The White House and allies plan to vilify House Democrats running the probes and make those congressional leaders “famous for all the wrong reasons.” “Trump himself will likely get involved, assigning derogatory nicknames while savaging them on Twitter”
Of course one of the key areas of enquiry will be past and present Russian meddling in US democracy.
Richard Fontaine twitter: “8. Then there are the coming House investigations. The foreign policy implications are unpredictable, but it’s almost certain that a closer look into past and present Russian meddling in U.S. democracy will be among them. This can be constructive.”
Democratic leaders say one of their other top responsibilities is to oversee how the Trump administration has managed federal agencies and changed regulations.
NPR twitter: “Top House Democratic leaders say one of their top responsibilities is to oversee how the Trump administration has managed federal agencies and changed regulations. They’ll also launch a batch of investigations into Trump and his business dealings”
There are reports the Democrats on the House Ways and Means committee are planning to formally request the President’s tax returns.
Lisa Desjardins twitter: “Question: Will you consider removing Mr. Mueller from his position. Trump: I could have removed him at any time. There was no collusion. This is very bad for our country.”
So, the more things change the more they stay the same, right?
Key question: what happens to Deputy Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein?
And also, what of this apparent quote from Mr Sessions’s chief of staff Mark Whittaker, who is taking over his job in an acting capacity:
John Kruzel tweet: “This quote from Jeff Sessions’ acting replacement, Matt Whitaker, is drawing fresh attention”
Meanwhile, Mr Trump says he gives House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi “a lot of credit” for Democrats’ success. “Hopefully we can all work together next year to continue delivering for the American people.”
Seems unlikely, based on current form.
CNN Politics twitter: “Trump: “Now is the time for members of both parties to join together, put partisanship aside and keep the American economic miracle going strong””
Susan Glasser tweet: “Remember when Trump mentioned bipartisanship? Seems like a year ago already”