WaPo reporter: There's 'an enormous amount' of new energy in the new Congress

The "This Week" Powerhouse Roundtable breaks down the week in politics, including the incoming congressional class and what's ahead for both parties in 2020.
13:57 | 11/18/18

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Transcript for WaPo reporter: There's 'an enormous amount' of new energy in the new Congress
Movement Keeps Us Connected. There you have it, the freshman class for the incoming 116th congress. As you saw earlier from our conversation on the hill a record number of women were elected to the house. All but one of them are Democrats. Our colleagues at 538 note that just 15% of the women in the next congress will be Republicans, down from 27% currently serving. We're going to talk about that and much more with our round table. Former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Stephanie cutter, reihan Salam, author of the new book "Melting pot or civil war" and Mary Jordan. Welcome, everybody. I'll start with you, Mary Jordan. You saw the incoming class picture. You heard the women I talked to. Do you think they make a difference? I think in all the excitement and gains we've been talking about 3-4 members of congress are still men. We're still behind most of the rest of the world. First of all, men are still in charge here. There is enormous amount of new energy to get things done. A lot of women who were never in politics are coming to the hill. They're going to bring fresh perspective and focus on two things. I heard over and over they're going to focus on health care and stopping the incivility and trying to heal things. If they do that, that would be pretty significant change in conversation on capitol hill. Everyone comes in with a great agenda. We hope they keep their energy up. Chris Christie, to that point about women, congress newest members were up on capitol hill. Let's look at the Republican freshman class in the house to rub it in. Look at the faces there. Here is just some of the democratic freshman class. Little bit different. Should that lack of racial and gender diversity be cause for concern among Republicans, especially when you look at the midterms? Listen, we should always be looking for ways to make our party more diverse and more representative of what the country looks like. That should be a goal. I come from the most ethnically diverse state in America. For me the fact that my party, let's say in New Jersey, looks significantly different than that class picture says it's possible. We're not talking just about New Jersey. We have just had the midterms. What do they need to do? You've got to focus on it and recruit. A lot of the candidates that came in on the democratic side had never been in politics. How did they get there? Some of them were self motivated to get there. Some of them, Martha, were recruited. It's incumbent on the party to go out and recruit members of country, citizens of our country who believe in Republican philosophies and get them to come in to give our party a more diverse look at what is going on and how we solve some of the problems the country has. Speaking of those problems, Stephanie, the midterms went for the Democrats from good to you might say great. You still have a Republican senate and a Republican in the white house. What happens in the next two years? How do you bridge that divide? The Democrats have two roads. One is to get things done. I was struck by the women you interviewed and they were talking about paid leave. The current house of representatives wouldn't even bring it to a vote. I guarantee you under democratic leadership that will be brought to a vote. That will be brought to a vote and that will matter to people to see their congress doing something that impacts their daily life. The second thing is I think this house will be an important check on this president's power. That's a necessary part of democracy. Whether it's an abuse of power through cabinet agencies, our the president making proper rules without the processor demonizing certain members of our society, those are the types of things that I think this house of representatives and one of the reasons they were elected is to make sure that abuse of power, there's some sort of check on it. That's the checks and balances. On this side of the table we have our partisans. On this side, I'll go to you reihan. President trump called the senate results an epic victory. You wrote you see troubling signs for the Republicans. That's right. The Republican party is eroding among suburban, upper income, college-aged voters. Those voters were enormously important in 2016. He has the support of some white working class voters. He seems to have lost some of that support and he has not built support among working class voters who are not white. When you think about the party's long-term trajectory, it's voter base has become a lot more suburban and affluent. That creates an opportunity for Republicans to relate to a wider swath. To really do that, you need not just cultural politics, you need something more substantive as well on economic and domestic policy. That's what we haven't seen from the president even though he seems to have those instincts. Right before the election we need a middle class tax cut. He said I'm going to give you a middle class tax cut. That didn't happen, but he realizes that running against a safety net that doesn't necessarily speak to working class voters, he didn't do that in 2016. Mary, you're out there with the voters as a reporter. Donald Trump got enormous amounts of traction by talking about I'm going to take care of the forgotten men and women. When I'm talking to people out there, many of these people who believed him and voted for him, they still feel forgotten. Especially for people -- yes, there's a bump in the economy, but I don't think people feel they got what they wanted from Donald Trump. 2020 is going to be all about that. It's about who's going to help the middle class people. We think there's -- there's a feeling the rich people are doing just fine. 2020 is going to be about the middle class. Stephanie, I want to go to you. Speaking of 2020, let's take a look at Florida. Andrew Gillum conceded in the governor's race. Doesn't look like the Democrats will hold the senate. I think the final recount is today. Looking into 2020 can Democrats win back the white house without Florida, without Ohio which was also very red? They can. It's very difficult. There are pathways. Florida is the ultimate battle ground for Democrats and Republicans. You see it switching back and forth every two years. We've got a lot of work to do there. It's a recount. It's a very close race. We need to look very carefully and what are the lessons we can learn. How can we better organize? What went wrong? There's no reason why Nelson shouldn't be winning handedly. We were fortunate to expand our playing ground, bringing Arizona into the democratic column. That gives us opportunities to get to 270 votes in a presidential election. I guess I would say, while we had great results two weeks ago, looking at the lessons learned from 2018 and how they apply to 2020, we have a tremendous amount of work to do. Chris, I want to ask you another race getting attention is the senate race in Mississippi. The president announced he'll be there to campaign for Cindy Hyde Smith who is in a run-off race. That's against democratic Mike espy. It should be an easy win for the Republicans until this happened. If he invited me to a public hanging, I would be in the front row she's saying to a supporter there. How concerned are you about the race? We have to be concerned when candidates say stupid things. I remember when I was chairman of the rga in 2014. In 2012 a lot of Republican candidates talked about rape. I told them if anybody says the word rape, I'm not going to fund your campaign. I think the Republican will still win. I think it will be much more watched. When candidates say things that aren't right, aren't smart, they get more attention. I would say one other thing about 2020. Every president goes through this, president Obama, president Clinton, president bush 43. When you go through a midterm and the results aren't what you wanted or worse, it's time for re-examination. A re-examination of how you're going to present yourself. I think even more so for this president because he has a democratic house he has to deal with. He has to decide does he want to be the New York deal maker, which is part of the way he ran, or does he want to be a doctrine Republican. I think, reihan, what you're saying is right. He has the opportunity to grow the Republican base. In a way that's going to play into the map Stephanie spoke about. It's his decision. He has to decide to do it. Isn't it a red alert that Republicans can't get women to vote for him? That's not true, Mary. Polls show there's a profound gender gap that we've never seen. There's always been one. Not like this. This is a record. Right. This was a bigger gap in a midterm election. Let's see what happens in the presidential year election when a greater number of people turn out to vote. You should be concerned about who's not voting for you. You want them to vote for you whether it's gender based, ethnicity based or regional or based upon educational background and after -- affluence. You want every vote you can get. At this point in 2010, the pundits gave president Obama a 17% chance of winning re-election. We sat down and figured out what do we need to do to change. We decided we needed to expand the groups we were talking to, not just our base, but those we needed to persuade that we were on a pathway to a better future. Compare that to president trump threatening to shut down the government over his border wall and using the caravan as a message to divide us. Is he learning that lesson? I don't know. I'm pretty confident as I recall 2010 that that didn't happen within 12 days of the midterm. He sat down over a period of weeks and said these are the numbers. Here's what we have to do. You know what he wasn't doing? He wasn't threatening to shut down the government over an issue that has already divided the country. The partisans are on this side of the table. I'm going to launch to this side of the table. I know we want to launch ahead to 2020, reihan. What about the next two years? What do you see happening in the white house? We heard a lot about staff shake-ups. We see president trump who appears to be getting a little unsettled about all this. What are you seeing in terms of the trump white house now and where he goes in the next two years? One important thing to keep in mind is that Donald Trump presented himself as an independent figure, a figure different and distinct than conventional mainstream Republicans. When you had speaker Paul Ryan who is dedicated to an agenda that dated back to the '90s, that did wind up constraining president trump. The fact that president trump on more than one occasion has said he's willing to find Republican votes to back speaker Pelosi, you could say that's just being playful. He's repeatedly said I want to talk about infrastructure, middle class tax cuts. His daughter ivanka was talking about paid leave. It's possible he's going to try to triangulate. Whether or not he can succeed in doing that given the fact that people have strong opinions about him, is an open question. Clearly the president wants to shake the kaleidoscope of politics. Ten seconds. When he ran before, he didn't have a record. Now he has a record and people are going to say where's the infrastructure? Where's the help for the middle class? All of us voted for you. What are you giving to us? He's got a much higher bar in 2020 and he's losing women by the droves. They vote more often than men. Very good on the ten seconds.

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

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