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The midterm elections dust has settled in Washington. Here are 5 key takeaways

The rising sun illuminates the U.S. Capitol building on Nov. 9, 2022 — the day after Election Day.
Samuel Corum
Getty Images
The rising sun illuminates the U.S. Capitol building on Nov. 9, 2022 — the day after Election Day.

The outcomes of the midterm elections have had wide-ranging consequences, from Congress to presidential politics.

Overall, the electorate delivered a warning against going too far, against extremes, but we're likely headed for a messy, partisan two years, right as the 2024 presidential season approaches with open questions about who will even be on the ballot for each party in that race.

Here are five lessons from the 2022 midterms:

1. Donald Trump is now more vulnerable to a primary challenge: Inflation was the top issue for voters, Republicans were trusted more on it, and yet, independents swung toward Democrats, defying history. What happened? Trump-backed candidates lost up and down the ballot. Now fingers are being pointed at the former president from within his own party for losing the Senate and a smaller-than-expected House majority; he's facing a DOJ special prosecutor; and even as he announced a run for president again this week, many in the GOP are looking toward "DeFuture."

2. The next Republican leader will have a hard time legislating: Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., wants to be speaker. A majority of his conference voted for him to be their leader this week, but he has a lot of work to do to get 218 of his members to vote for him for speaker come January. But even if he does, because of the narrow House majority he will have — likely only four seats at this point — Republicans will have a hard time passing legislation.

3. Democrats holding the Senate is important: They will be able to block any legislation coming from the House and show a unified front with President Biden. More practically, they will be able to continue to reshape the federal judiciary and if a vacancy comes open on the Supreme Court, Biden and Democrats will be able to fill it. We saw how important being able to appoint justices to the high court was with the Dobbs decision this year.

4. Still, Republicans will make a spectacle in the House: Drama in the House will likely be a focus in the next two years, as the 2024 presidential election approaches. But the House GOP will still be able to hold high-profile investigations, including of the president's son, Hunter, and potentially move to impeach members of the Biden administration (though that would go nowhere in the Democratic Senate).

5. A new era in Democratic power is emerging: With Democrats' losses and relegation to the minority in the House for the next two years, longtime House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi is stepping aside. It will usher in a new era of younger Democratic leaders. But Pelosi's time as Democratic leader shouldn't be undervalued. Despite a mostly mythological "Dems in disarray" narrative, Pelosi provided a remarkable 20 years of consistency and effectiveness. During her time in office, Republicans have seen their speakers struggle to hold the party together — Newt Gingrich saw a backlash that led to his downfall, Dennis Hastert resigned, John Boehner was essentially ousted by the far right and Paul Ryan's brand suffered immensely under Trump.

The bottom line is, as Pelosi makes way for a new generation, she is likely to go down as one of the most effective speakers in history.

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Domenico Montanaro is NPR's senior political editor/correspondent. Based in Washington, D.C., his work appears on air and online delivering analysis of the political climate in Washington and campaigns. He also helps edit political coverage.