Sep 11, 2017

Inside the Trump-Schumer marriage of convenience

Evan Vucci / AP

The president's surprise fiscal deal has empowered Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, to the consternation of top Republicans — which is technically Trump's party.

  • After shunning Trump for months because of possible blowback from the left, Schumer now has supreme leverage in December — hammer time for the debt and spending thickets that were postponed by the deal.
  • Why it matters: Neither side wants this to be a one-off.

My conversations with both sides make it clear that Trump plans to continue playing the field, and Schumer is game to make future deals with Trump as long as they suit the Democratic base.

What Trump is thinking:

  • Republicans can decide if they want to help their president. If not, the other side will.
  • Republicans on the Hill are whining now, but they'll "get it" when they hear how popular my deal is back in their states and districts.
  • Chuck is closer to me on trade, and possibly infrastructure, than traditional Republicans are.
  • The press is portraying this as a tectonic shift, but I've been chapped at Mitch and Paul for months.
  • And the fake news forgets how I ran and won: It wasn't exactly as a McConnell-Ryan Republican.

What Schumer is thinking:

  • Senate and House Democrats are now going to focus on laying the groundwork for all the things that we need to work in a bipartisan way in the weeks and months ahead.
  • We need protections for Dreamers. We need to stabilize the health-care markets. And we need to come up with a budget deal and fund the government, while continuing to block the wall.
  • I've built a lot of goodwill with my party's left, so they trust my instincts. My office holds weekly calls with coalitions of progressive groups — and I gave personal advice to them during the health-care fight, on questions like which offices their phone banks should focus on. They were worried I'd be a centrist dealmaker. But I'm going to double down on staying true to the base.
  • I'm not going to fall under Donald's sway, or succumb to auction fever. I'm his Flavor of the Week, but you know how fickle that guy is.
  • I can be even bigger than the media realizes, because I have surprisingly strong rapport with Republican senators. I realized that Republicans work out in the morning, while Democrats are more likely to go to the gym in the afternoon. So I go in the morning. To be honest, I read the papers and watch "Morning Joe" more than I sweat. But I have great conversations with Republicans on the bike next to me.

Be smart: Trump and Schumer are friendly, but not friends, from the New York days. Both are press hounds, and they share a deal-making gene. This marriage of convenience could last a while.

  • Republicans worry that Trump, having tasted the juicy coverage he got last week, will become a true third entity — a populist maverick who's Republican in name only. No fundraiser-in-chief at the head of the party, and whirling deals based on whatever gets positive coverage at the time.
  • Their real fear, as articulated by a shrewd young GOP operative: "He'd take our base with him. They love the McConnell-bashing."

Instant classic ... Chuck Schumer to N.Y. Times' Carl Hulse: "I got a call [from Trump] early this morning ... He said, 'This was so great! ... Do you watch Fox News?' I said, 'Not really.' 'They're praising you!' Meaning me. But he said, 'And your stations' — I guess meaning MSNBC and CNN — 'are praising me! This is great!'"

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