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Trump v. Pelosi showdown will define 2019 and 2020

An illustration of President Trump and Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi arguing
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Neither Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi nor President Trump has any real competitor for influence on their side. Each sees themselves as a master dealmaker. Both run in coastal-elite circles.

The bottom line: Their chilly relationship is now the most consequential in American public life.

  • She is the most powerful and recognizable Democrat.
  • She has an iron grip over most her party.
  • She is hated on the right as much as Trump is on the left.
  • She will decide impeachment and every Trump target to hit.
  • She is trash-talking him with glee.
  • She can block any bill.
  • He is the most powerful and recognizable Republican.
  • He has an iron grip on elected Republicans.
  • He is loathed by Democrats.
  • He tried mansplaining to her in the White House this week, and got a biting response.
  • He soon will be subject to the subpoenas and gavels of her committee chairs.

Both sides are relishing the combat to come:

  • Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), the incoming Democratic Caucus chair, told me that after two years of essentially running a monarchy, Trump this week got a taste of Pelosi's strength: "Everything changes on January 3rd. ... She's just getting started. There will be much more of that to come."
  • David Urban, a Trump adviser who hosted the president at last weekend's Army-Navy game, told me Trump is treating Pelosi as "the new Hillary" until he has a 2020 opponent. "He's already branding her: 'I’m for you. She’s for them,'" Urban said.

Be smart ... Erik Smith — founder of Blue Engine Message & Media, and a former senior House Democratic adviser — said:

  • "Speaker Pelosi's sole job in 2019 will be to serve Trump to the 2020 nominee on a platter ... She won't be bullied or outmaneuvered."