The Note: Pelosi is central figure for newly empowered Democrats

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The TAKE with Rick Klein

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Say what you will about Nancy Pelosi — and more than a few of her fellow Democrats would like to tell the once and probably-future House speaker to go away — but she’s quickly emerging as the most important Democrat on the national stage.

The immediate aftermath of Tuesday’s midterm elections demonstrated why. Before President Donald Trump hijacked his own news cycle by firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Trump and Pelosi offered dueling takes on the relationships that will define the new dynamics of a Democratic House digging in on a Republican White House.

If gridlock emerges out of congressional oversight efforts, the president warned, “I would blame them.”

Pelosi responded with a warning of her own — of sorts — directed at her own members, even though she hasn’t locked down the speakership yet: “I don’t think we are going to have any scattershot freelancing.”

PHOTO: House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi arrives for a press conference after Democrats took back control of the house in Washington, Nov. 7, 2018.Nicholas Kamm /AFP/Getty Images
House Minority leader Nancy Pelosi arrives for a press conference after Democrats took back control of the house in Washington, Nov. 7, 2018.

Democrats are building a new majority. But with Pelosi, they don’t have to do it from scratch: She’s been there before, and has the standing to offer guardrails and reflect the diverse array of backgrounds populating the new Democratic caucus.

Hours later, with Sessions fired and Trump critics in meltdown mode, it became obvious that a Democratic House is about more than offering an opposing agenda. It will be about checks on a president — checks that will require their own balancing acts.

The RUNDOWN with MaryAlice Parks

Sen. Bernie Sanders argued Wednesday that Democrats had plenty to be proud of in the wake of the midterm elections, including the fact that Democrats won the popular vote, flipped majority control of the House, elected a historically diverse set of candidates and picked up more than 300 state legislature seats as well.

Sanders, I-Vt., chalked up the loss of Senate seats to a difficult playing field this year and the fact that those Democratic candidates who lost ran were too centrist.

“Candidates who tried to become lite-Republicans did not do all that well,” he told ABC News over the phone, but conceded that Andrew Gillium’s defeat in Florida was a “shot disappointment.”

As for the looming question about another possible presidential run, Sanders said his team is still contemplating the possibility.

“We are going to take our time and think hard about who the best candidate is to beat Donald Trump and whether I am that candidate,” he said. “We are going to be thinking about it, but a decision has not been made.”

PHOTO: Sen. Bernie Sanders smiles as he poses for a photograph with Vermont Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist outside City Hall in Saint Albans, Vt., Nov. 6, 2018.Charles Krupa/AP
Sen. Bernie Sanders smiles as he poses for a photograph with Vermont Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Hallquist outside City Hall in Saint Albans, Vt., Nov. 6, 2018.

Sanders said he would continue to consult with “knowledgeable progressives around the country about who will be the strongest candidates … who will have the best chance to win the primary and then to win the general election.”

He posited that in his view almost any Democrat would be able to win most of the states Hillary Clinton won two years ago, but the real question for him, and the party, would be which candidate can do well in battleground states Trump won in 2016.

“That is an issue we have to study very, very carefully,” he said.

He, of course, outperformed Clinton in traditionally redder states in the Midwest and heartland in the 2016 presidential primary.

The TIP with John Verhovek

As is often the case with most major events in the Trump era, the 2018 midterms left the country with almost as many questions as it did answers, and the biggest cliffhangers promise to provide plenty of electoral entertainment for those who weren’t satisfied with Tuesday night’s somewhat predictable outcome in the House and Senate.

In Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson still trailed Gov. Rick Scott by a margin of just 0.4 percent, and with a Saturday deadline to request a recount looming, Democrats are close to losing their fourth seat out of the 10 that Trump won in 2016 — Indiana, Missouri and North Dakota being the others.

PHOTO: Supporters of Sen. Bill Nelson react during an election night event at the Embassy Suites on November 6, 2018 in Orlando, Fla.Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Supporters of Sen. Bill Nelson react during an election night event at the Embassy Suites on November 6, 2018 in Orlando, Fla.

In Georgia, Stacey Abrams’ campaign is pledging to fight on until every vote is counted in her epic battle against Republican Brian Kemp to become the nation’s first female African-American governor.

And even more uncertainty clouds the results in some key U.S. House races, many in the state of California. One to watch is in the 48th Congressional District, where GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher trails Democrat Harley Rouda, with votes still to be counted.

Control of the House and Senate may be decided, but these races will rightly be watched intensely in the days — and possibly weeks — to come.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News’ “Start Here” Podcast. Thursday morning’s episode features ABC News’ Mike Levine, who tells us why Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned and what it could mean for the Mueller investigation. ABC News Senior Congressional correspondent Mary Bruce tells how Congress is reacting to the news, and ABC News Senior Editorial producer John Santucci says President Trump is pushing back against potential investigations from House Democrats. And, ABC News’ John Parkinson explains the battles brewing in House leadership following the midterm elections. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

FiveThirtyEight Politics Podcast: The Midterms are Over — so is Jeff Session’s Time at the Justice Department. The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast team reacts to the news Wednesday that Attorney General Jeff Sessions resigned at President Trump’s request. Trump’s new acting Attorney General, Matthew Whitaker, has previously argued that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election has gone too far. He is now in a position to curtail that investigation. https://53eig.ht/2zEnpPd

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • There will be a formal investiture ceremony for Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh at a special sitting of the Supreme Court at 10 a.m.
  • President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meet at 11 a.m.
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    The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights political analysis of the day ahead. Please check back tomorrow for the latest.





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