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Here’s why the midterm elections show us that Donald Trump is weaker than he knows

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Good morning. Welcome to the first official day of the 2020 presidential campaign! I’m sure you’re all ready to roll up your sleeves and get to work. It that makes you feel like burying your face in a gallon of Ben & Jerry’s and never coming up for air, I don’t blame you. But it’s the truth. Tuesday night marked the end of the beginning of the Trump era. We can only hope we’re now at the beginning of the end.

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This article was originally published at Salon

If the midterm results are any indication, it’s going to be a wild ride. As I write this we don’t know the final numbers yet but it’s clear that the polls were on target in projecting a Democratic House win and a GOP Senate hold. The new Democratic caucus is going to be younger and more diverse than ever, with “firsts” of many kinds, including the first Native American women, first Muslim women and the first Democratic Latina Governor. In fact, more than half the seats that were flipped from red to blue were won by women and the total number of women in the House is going to be historic:

The Democrats also took six legislative chambers out of Republican hands and flipped at least six governorships.

And yes, they lost some heartbreakers as well, including the flagship Senate and governor races in Texas, Florida and Georgia — although the results were very close and some may not be decided yet. (Georgia gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams has not conceded, and is requesting a recount.) There was always the hope that despite the brutal Senate electoral map that had Democrats defending far more seats than Republicans — 10 of them in red states carried by Trump in 2016 — they could possibly run the table and pick up a couple more. It wasn’t a surprise that it didn’t happen, but it was certainly disappointing that so many Republicans are still so happy to give Trump a blank check. His base in the solid red states came through.

Nonetheless, it was a good night for Democrats, delivering exactly what they need to put a check on the Trump administration and solidify their own base as they gear up for the next phase of this rebuilding of America. I wasn’t kidding when I said that this is really the first day of the presidential election. There will be no respite. It’s on.

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So how did President Trump respond to last night’s results? He issued a perfunctory congratulations tweet to the winners and then posted this:

“There’s only been 5 times in the last 105 years that an incumbent President has won seats in the Senate in the off year election. Mr. Trump has magic about him. This guy has magic coming out of his ears. He is an astonishing vote getter & campaigner. The Republicans are………

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018

….unbelievably lucky to have him and I’m just awed at how well they’ve done. It’s all the Trump magic – Trump is the magic man. Incredible, he’s got the entire media against him, attacking him every day, and he pulls out these enormous wins.” Ben Stein, “The Capitalist Code”

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018

.@DavidAsmanfox “How do the Democrats respond to this? Think of how his position with Republicans improves-all the candidates who won tonight. They realize how important he is because of what he did in campaigning for them. They owe him their political career.” Thanks, I agree!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018

What a surprise: Trump seems to think he won big last night. The White House is already claiming he went “five for five” because he campaigned in Indiana, Missouri, Texas, Florida and Georgia — as if it were a brilliant feat for Republicans to win those states. Nonetheless, you can bet that he will be strutting around bragging about his strategic genius for the next two years.

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He did not win big. This election tells us that he’s weaker than he knows. Job growth has slowed down slightly from the last two years of Obama’s presidency, but unemployment is at 3.6 percent and this economic expansion has now reached historic levels. Yet he has never been able to raise his approval rating above what it was when he was elected, which was far below the usual approval rating for a new president. Right now, it’s still running at least two points below where President Obama’s was at this point in his presidency, when the economy was still a smoldering ruin from the Great Recession and unemployment was at nearly 10 percent. With those economic numbers all the models show that Trump should be much more popular than he is.

And those Midwestern states that allowed him to eke out tiny little victories that gave him his Electoral College win? They are anything but solid for Republicans.

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According to ABC News he was feeling uncharacteristically introspective on Tuesday morning:

“I’ve seen many of the newspapers saying it’s a referendum on what we’ve done, so I don’t know about that, but I can tell you that’s the way they’re going to play it, and if we don’t have a good day, they are going to make it like it’s the end of the world,” Trump said in a call with the supporters the day before the election.

“The election,” Trump said, “is very vital because it really is summing up what we’ve done, it’s going to show confidence for what we’ve done.”

“Even though I’m not on the ballot in a certain way I am on the ballot,” Trump said.

But he wasn’t worried, not really. He told his rally-goers the other night that the House might be gone and reassured them that it would all be fine. He said, “It could happen. And you know what you do? My whole life, you know what I say? ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ll just figure it out.'”

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Apparently, he’s “figured out” that the best thing to do is declare victory and boast about his brilliance. So we begin this new campaign right where we left off the last one.

Come January, Democrats will have the power to challenge the president and it will change the dynamics substantially. There will be oversight, public hearings and subpoenas flying from Capitol Hill. They are long overdue. The administration’s rampant corruption and conflicts of interest must be investigated. There must be some accountability for Trump’s policies that shock the conscience and violate the Constitution. These things have to be publicly aired so that the people can see the scope of the scandals enveloping the executive branch.

We don’t know how that will affect the president and his followers. It would appear that for the most part they have been unmoved by his outrageous performance in office these first two years. His base turned out in great numbers to endorse the party that enables him. They haven’t lost the faith one bit. But we are only at the halfway mark of this ongoing nightmare. And the second half will be very different from the first.

Former Republican strategist Steve Schmidt put it this way: “Trumpism was repudiated in suburban and urban America, emboldened in rural America. Elected Republicans will learn from this that running away from Trump is a loser, cozying up is a winner.”

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So the fight continues. The difference is that the Democrats are finally on the field and their army just got a whole lot bigger.


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