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What path lies ahead for the US after the midterms?

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By Alasdair Sandford
What path lies ahead for the US after the midterms?
Copyright  REUTERS/Scott Morgan

Democrats and Republicans are each claiming some success after the US midterm elections, but for both parties, serious challenges lie ahead.

Gaining control of the House of Representatives means the Democrats can put a significant check on the president’s programme. House Democratic Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the party would look to restore constitutional checks and balances on the Trump administration.

US President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is celebrating “tremendous success” for the Republicans. They tightened their grip on the Senate, and in the American states where the president campaigned for the midterms, he won.

But looking ahead to 2020 and the next US presidential election, both sides face similar dilemmas.

Trump concentrated on firing up his base, and his faithful followers lapped up his anti-immigrant, anti-elite, anti-media and above all anti-Democrat message.

But the challenge for the president and his party is how to reach out to moderate Republican voters who may be more concerned with issues such as healthcare. And many are put off by Trump’s divisive, some say toxic rhetoric, and his persistently belligerent attacks on his opponents.

For the Democrats, an NBC exit poll, which found that two-thirds of young voters aged under 30 backed their party in the midterms, is the sort of news they are looking for.

However, with two years until the presidential election they have no obvious candidate. And despite making headway in winning support in suburban areas, they are still struggling to reach into more conservative, rural areas. Significantly, in Florida they failed to win the battle for the state’s governorship and lost four Senate seats.

Democratic activists have called for a full-on attack on Trump and his administration, but NBC polling suggests a significant proportion of the electorate is lukewarm about the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election — with a majority openly hostile to impeaching the president. 

Meanwhile, the battle lines will be drawn in Congress. Some analysts see scope for compromise on matters such as infrastructure, drug pricing and justice reform. For all his trashing of his Democrat opponents, Trump has acknowledged Pelosi’s call for bipartisanship. The House Democratic leader said: “We have all had enough of division”.

However, if the coming months see the president and his administration officials bogged down in investigations and issued with subpoenas, confrontation rather than compromise may be the order of the day. And the potential for gridlock in Congress, as happened during Barack Obama’s last term, is very real.