Rahm Emanuel: Midterm elections were 'a blue wave with a red undertow'

The "This Week" Powerhouse Roundtable debates the week in politics, including the impact of Democrats taking control of the House in the 2018 midterm elections.
17:03 | 11/11/18

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Transcript for Rahm Emanuel: Midterm elections were 'a blue wave with a red undertow'
I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida. Rick Scott is trying to stop all the votes from being counted and he is impeding the voting process. I'm replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote. Always comes down to Florida. Always taking a long time. Recounts now in that state. Let's talk about it at our round table with our senior correspondent Mary Bruce, political correspondent Matthew dowd, Republican commentate of Sara Fagen, former New Jersey governor Chris Christie and former mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel. Let's start out, Matt, talking overall about the midterms, your big take away. First of all, this is like 12 days of Christmas where as each day goes on it gets better for the Democrats. From this vantage point this was a bad day for the Republicans. It wasn't a split decision. If you take a look at all the data, the Democrats picked up more seats than since watergate. The Democrats picked up more governorships since 1982. When you look at that expanse and then put it in the context that the last president with an economy like this, had a 20-point higher job approval rating and their incumbent -- All true, but how rare is it for a president to pick up seats in the senate and loss seats in the congress? The country is divided geographically and demographically. Places that are red become redder and blue become bluer. The Republicans did do well in the senate. I do agree with Matt, it does speak to the polarization of the country. People are sorting themselves geographically. They live by people like them. Suburban Democrats voted for the house and conservative Republicans voted for the senate. If you think about 2020, particularly if Republicans hold the two seats, it's hard for Democrats to take back the senate in the next election. On the governors race, Democrats did well across the midwest, but did not get the big prize of Ohio and we'll see what happens in Florida. Republicans are at a historic high with 33-50 governorships. There was only one way to go and it was down. When you also -- we talked about this Tuesday. When you have open seats, Republicans are defending 26, 12 are open seats. Those are hard to win. The fact is that you would love to hold 33 seats. You're not going to. Even after this, the majority of the governorships are being held by Republicans. I think there's a blue wave with a red under tow. Both parties have something to crow about. Both have something to worry about. For the Democrats they had no business winning the house with this type of economy and the gerrymandering that went on. A wave reflects you have a force bigger than structural impediments. These are mostly seat that is Hillary Clinton won. They secured. They're securing the majority in the suburban. The governorships are a significant game. The Republicans have something to crow about which is they're starting to solidify a position in Ohio. When you look at the midwest, that's a flashing yellow light for us. What's a flashing yellow light for the Republican party you're losing bad in the suburbs. Democrats if they're smart will block the issues of the Republicans and concentrate on health care, infrastructure and education access. You saw Elijah Cummings talking about that. That democratic rise in suburbs fueled by women candidates. It's reshaped what the halls of congress are going to look like. More than 100 women coming in, Muslim women, native American women. The diversity is tremendous. It changes the way business gets done in Washington to a certain extent. Women are known for getting more legislation through than men. It will be interesting to see if that comes to fruition. The big problem in Washington is grid lock. One more point on the midterms. I think Democrats should have picked up more seats in the house. When you think about where the president's numbers where and the environmental factors, Democrats didn't do as well as they could have because of a very strong economy. This is something in my view hasn't been talked about as much. Democrats should have picked up north of 40 seats. Republicans benefited from the fact that the economy is so strong. Unemployment is so low. Wait a second. '82, '94, '06, '10. Those were all with bad economy. At 3.7% we had no business taking the house. Donald Trump was on the ballot in every congressional district and he lost. That is in the face of gerrymandering. I picked the lock in '06 and Republicans did it again. You can also look at it is this way Democrats should have done better given the way people feel about Donald Trump and Republicans should have done better based on the economy. As Rahm said, there was much to learn on each side. I have the feeling both sides are taking the wrong lessons from this. That's unusual. The fundamental reality and the aftermath of this election which we saw in the aftermath of 2016 is that Democrats have a short-term problem. That's their ability to appeal to the vast swath of the public. They have to figure out how to fix it. The Republicans have a huge long term problem which is their inability to win the national popular vote. They've only done it once in seven presidencies. They lost badly -- it's probably going to be 7 million votes of popular vote loss. Every group is becoming more and more of a solid constituency. George, one other thing, the congress,000 for the first time in our country's history looks like America. I want to look ahead at 2020. Before we get that, I can't waste Chris Christie being here. Never waste, George. The president appointed an acting attorney general. People are talking about you for attorney general. Are you interested? Has he asked? He hasn't asked. We haven't spoken about it. I was in the white house Thursday for a previously scheduled meeting on prison reform. We did a lot with that in new Jersey. It was very successful. The white house is asking me to help with that on the national level. I didn't see the president or speak to him. Listen, I've been through this dance a lot of times before. The fact is a president makes his own decision on these things. I'm thrilled being here with you, George. Why would I want to leave? What about us? I'll reserve on you, Rahm. He obviously met Whitaker under fire. Calls for recusal. Some saying his appointment isn't even legal. How long can he effectively serve as acting attorney general? By the law 210 days. I think he's really there to land the Mueller investigation, to get it done. I think the president wisely didn't want to bring a new person into the mix who was not already in the department. Tough for anybody to get confirmed. Yeah, plus I don't think you want to do that to a new attorney general. Have them have to take on the responsibility of the Mueller investigation. If they have to, they have to. What I think the president is attempting to do is have someone already involved to get the Mueller investigation to its completion and to turn the page for a new justice department afterwards. The only reason sessions is out is because of what he did with the Mueller investigation and the only reason Whitaker has been asked to serve is because what he's said on the Mueller investigation. I think he has to recuse himself. It's a dangerous point for America. The challenge is going to be for the senate Republicans and are they going to find their voice on advise and consent or not. Mitch Mcconnell answered that question. Mitch Mcconnell has answered that question. They're not going to be passing any kind of legislation to protect Mueller even though he thinks the investigation should be able to continue unimpeded. He asked him what assurances he's been given to -- Mark my words, Republican senators underneath him are going to feel the heat. If there's interference. Right. Here's the issue, the assurance is this has been going on for quite sometime. Despite some tweeting, the president hasn't interfered or fired Bob Mueller. When you're this close, it's the conclusion. Most people observe this and watch how Bob Mueller is acts, sending prosecutors back to justice et cetera. He's near the end. I don't believe the president having shown restraint to this point is going to stop now. I think Chris' point is the right one. This has gone on 18 months. Bob Mueller has gotten -- Not that long by special counsel standards. Okay, but they've indicted three dozen people. They've got eight convictions. Hundreds of justice department lawyers and FBI agents have been involved, not to mention all the witnesses and their lawyers. There's no stopping the train that's going to be the Mueller report. Matt Whitaker can't sit on it. There's a Democrat congress now. Even if they did try to sit on it, this is coming out. I totally agree. We can speculate. When Bob Mueller submits his report, it's going to drop like a thud in Washington. It's going to happen right before the Democrats take the house or right after. This idea that somebody is going to be able to control the story, or someone's going to limit what's in there, that's going to drop. It's a huge splash in the pond and everyone is going to have to deal with it. We saw Cummings and Nadler say this isn't the only thing we'll be doing. Democrats are in a real danger here that they've become too investigative. If they just investigate and don't legislate, that's a problem for them. They're trying to say we have priorities here. We're going to reign things in and do it in an orderly fashion. Even if you listen to the priorities in your interview, they range from looking into the census, to conflicts of interest, to the Amazon thing. Nancy Pelosi is going to have to find a way to reign in all that. What should the priorities be? Here's the thing, you can look into trump, if I was in those oversight committees, I would look out for America. That would be my guiding light. I would haul in all the pharmaceutical executives and talk about pricing. I would deal with the anti-trust elements that congress can do. I would not make trump the focus. I would make it about the agenda as it relates to the American people. Anything you do on trump is what's going to get the attention. That may be. The questions to members of congress are about the investigation of trump. I think there are a lot of questions as to what's going on in the EPA and in the interest of polluters why isn't the EPA doing its job there. There's a lot to do with health care costs as it relates to pharmaceuticals. I would look out for America and not just look at trump. I agree with Rahm. We'll see how smart the Democrats are in having this new authority. I guarantee you if they make this about the president, this is what the president is dreaming about. It's what he's wishing for. Judicious, the moment you break that, you're in trouble. They give Donald Trump the opportunity to look like a martyr he's going to take it. There's one thing that hasn't been talked about from the lk election, is the series of Progressive policies that were passed on election day in red states. The minimum wage was raised. Opposed by Republicans in Missouri and Arkansas it was raised. Medicaid was expanded in Nebraska, Idaho and Utah. Gun control passed in Washington by a larger margin than anybody else got elected to. Felons in Florida were given the right to vote. This idea that America is opposed to Progressive policies, Americans in red states vote for them when they're on the ballot. Here's the question, do the Democrats focus on those things where there might be possibility of legislating for example, infrastructure, if they can find the money? If they're smart, they do the investigations, but pass the series of policies and make the senate vote it down. Pass the series of policies and make the senate vote them down. I think the mayor is right. If Democrats want to be smart, they'll focus on their agenda. They'll focus first on infrastructure and health care. It doesn't seem to me -- you look at both your democratic headliners they were talking investigators first. To be fair I was asking questions about investigations. You were. 52 times in this congress they have tried to subpoena. Of course Republicans have kicked those down. They are not going to be able to resist the urge to make this about -- talking about the emoluments clause, we want to have an investigation on that? That tells you everything you need to know. They should pass gun control and raising the minimum wage within two weeks. You're going to see both. They're going to be plowing ahead on legislative priorities and these investigations. So many came out saying they want to come out and protect pre-existing conditions. I think the Democrats will say okay, put your money where your mouth is. On gun control you'll see something quickly come out. One of the biggest mistakes the trump administration did is leading with health care. Yes. I was saying -- They own it now. Right. I said lead with the tax cut and go to infrastructure. Reminds me of you and president Obama. We agree again, Rahm. Don't tell my mother. I won't. The big mistake for the Democrats would be to just do what Matt's saying to do. Pass a bunch of things all of you will be saying the senate is never going to pass it. Force the senate on something that the president is saying he might be willing to consider. This is the key point, the Democrats should triangulate. They should find everything that Mitch Mcconnell and the president don't agree on and go right at it. This will force a division in the Republican party. It will bring in whatever moderate wings of the Republicans are left and bring them over to the democratic side. That's -- do they have the discipline to do that? That's the more than the $64,000 question. That's the $64,000 question. This is where I give speaker Pelosi the credit. She was from day one in 2016 unbelievably strategically discipline to focus on the core issues that matter. I do think it's important. Wherever Mitch Mcconnell is against something, minimum wage, health care cost, pre-existing conditions and the president is for it, you drive 64,000 miles an hour there and triangulate it. Who is going to triangulate, the Democrats or the president? If you look at Donald Trump's history with the exception of trade, his positions have been fairly flexible over time and that's -- Yeah, right. Flexible? We're going to end on that note. You disagree with that? Not at all. He's firm in his opinions. It's the principals he's flexible on. By the way, Rahm worked for a president that had that same ability. We're out of time. We have to end there on that remarkable understatement by Chris Christie.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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