After the hype: A ‘softer’ Trump, collegial Pelosi

After the hype: A ‘softer’ Trump, collegial Pelosi
© Getty Images

There’s got to be a morning after. To the great relief of many, the morning after the tumultuous 2018 midterm elections has passed.

We awoke to a mixed bag of no real surprises, a little something for everybody, and questions about what the new balance of power in Washington will yield.

From the incessant speculation, a few answers are emerging.


There was no “blue wave” washing across the nation. Rather, things went pretty much as predicted. While 2016 produced big surprises, 2018 gave us few.

Democrats took enough House seats to wrest control from the Republicans for the first time since 2010. While a few races remain too close to call, the Democratic takeaway of 2018 — flipping at least 27 House seats — paled in comparison to the Republican shifts following Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson Clinton Democratic leaders' impeachment tightrope Several factors have hindered 'next up' presidential candidates in recent years Criminal justice includes food security — we can't ban the social safety net MORE’s first midterm, when they flipped 54 seats, or Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaBiden calls for unity, jabs at Trump in campaign launch Several factors have hindered 'next up' presidential candidates in recent years Lewandowski: Why Joe Biden won't make it to the White House — again MORE’s initial midterm, when they turned over a whopping 63. Instead, the number of House seats that changed partisan hands Tuesday likely will be pretty much right on the average.

Most prognosticators had predicted that Republicans would keep control of the Senate and perhaps add to their slim majority. Not only did they keep the Senate, they added to their majority, winning key battles in Florida, Missouri, Indiana and North Dakota.

Even with several states still too close to call and a run-off scheduled in Mississippi, the GOP is buoyed knowing that, regardless of those outcomes, they’ll keep the majority in the Senate and with it the opportunity to continue to fill federal judgeships and potentially a Supreme Court seat or two.

Likewise, Republicans had much for which to be thankful in the too-often overlooked gubernatorial races. The GOP was defending governors’ offices in the same proportion that Democrats were defending Senate seats. Democrats are chirping over takeaways in the Rust Belt (Michigan and Wisconsin), but Republicans have equal reason for glee, retaining governorships in states such as Florida and Ohio that will be pivotal in 2020.

How significant the “referendum” on the Trump administration was will be debated for weeks. This much we know: Donald Trump gets voters to the polls.

An estimated 113 million voted in the midterms, eclipsing the 100 million mark for the first time in a midterm. That’s almost half the electorate — 49 percent. We haven’t gotten above 50 percent in more than a century, although in 1966 we had a turnout equivalent to this year’s percentage.

The vital question now is what will happen as a result.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump calls for Republicans to be 'united' on abortion Tlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution Facebook temporarily suspended conservative commentator Candace Owens MORE said before the polls closed that his “tone” was the one thing he’d have changed during the first half of his presidency, indicating that he’d like to have a “much softer” tone following the election.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a one-time chair of the Democratic National Committee, told his party — and especially its more bellicose members — that the new House majority should “legislate, legislate, legislate, not investigate, investigate, investigate.”

His admonition certainly puts impeachment into the far-left lockbox.

The challenges, of course, will be for Donald Trump to make the shift he says he wants and for Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiTlaib calls on Amash to join impeachment resolution 5 things to watch as Trump, Dems clash over investigations GOP lawmaker: Trump has engaged in multiple actions that 'meet the threshold for impeachment' MORE to maintain some discipline over the more radical members of her caucus.

Pelosi is faced with challenges to her leadership. A dozen Democrats told their constituents they wouldn’t vote for Pelosi if, as anticipated, Democrats controlled Congress. Whether or not they’re willing to break that promise on the first day of the new Congress will be interesting to see.

Fear not for Nancy Pelosi. She’ll be the Speaker.

There are divisions within her caucus between moderates and socialists. More significantly, there are age issues, with younger members increasingly unhappy over the aging leadership. But if there was any real doubt of her ability to cobble together the votes she needs, President Trump pretty well closed the deal on Wednesday afternoon, telling us that he’d muster the votes she needed if necessary.

Whether Pelosi can steer her new majority away from the craziness of impeachment talk and towards doable legislation will largely determine how the two-year run-up to the presidential election works for the two parties.

If impeachment is replaced with infrastructure and immigration, the political landscape will be a lot smoother. Democrats stand to gain a lot with an early infrastructure bill. It’s a big job-creator and provides individual members with key projects in their districts. It’s high on the president’s wish list. And he’s the consummate dealmaker.

Likewise, President Trump has signaled that he’s willing to work with Democrats to get a broad immigration package, especially on DACA.

The president’s “tone” undoubtedly will play a role. More so will be his party’s ability to tell the story of his policy successes.

The midterms gave the storytelling prize to the Democrats. They effectively drove their narrative on health care, especially on coverage for those with preexisting conditions. It was disingenuous but emotional. And it worked.

Republicans didn’t do as good a job telling their story about the economy. They chose to trumpet the successes of the economy in statistical terms rather than in very human, emotional terms. It wasn’t “Morning in America.” That would have been a better connection with voters.

Just as President Trump and Nancy Pelosi concluded their post-game press conferences, the announcement of Jeff Sessions’s removal took over the news.

There will be another morning.

Charlie Gerow, first vice chairman of the American Conservative Union, has held national leadership positions in several Republican presidential campaigns. He began his career on the campaign staff of Ronald Reagan. A nationally recognized expert in strategic communications, he is CEO of Quantum Communications, a Pennsylvania-based media relations and issue advocacy firm.