“The Democrats have no business picking up the House and the governorships, no business,” Mr. Emanuel said. “The fact is this was a blue wave with a red undertow.” The Democrats, he added, were building a “metropolitan majority,” a coalition of urban and suburban voters that he said would make it harder for the president to win a second term.
How the president will recalibrate, if at all, may become clearer in the days and weeks to come as he reshuffles his staff and cabinet and decides whether to force a showdown with the departing Republican Congress over money for his long-promised wall along the southern border, funds he seems unlikely to win once the Democrats formally take the reins in the House in January.
Moreover, the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, which took a public pause during the fall campaign, may soon come to a climax, tempting the president to shut it down or fire Mr. Mueller as he has contemplated. Any such move would inflame the capital and potentially provoke House Democrats to use their new power to take action.
Mr. Trump, however, is a more flexible political figure than many, capable of shifting his position on a dime without worrying about looking consistent, and as a result, he could in theory decide to work with Democrats even at the risk of angering fellow Republicans. The same president who went from threatening nuclear war against North Korea’s leader to declaring that the two had fallen in love could conceivably reposition himself into a negotiator with Democrats.
“Democrats winning the House provides a silver lining for the president in that he could craft bipartisan solutions for prescription drug costs and infrastructure,” said Sara Fagen, a former White House political director under Mr. Bush. “But it also means members of his administration will spend many, many hours dealing with investigations, including answering questions under subpoena.”
Mr. Trump also retains the power to set foreign policy as other presidents did during times of clashes with Congress and indeed, he leaves on Friday for a weekend in Paris, where he will join other world leaders in marking the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.