Trump, US midterm election results: President made genius move

DONALD Trump is unbowed after his party lost the majority in the US House of Representatives, and with some reason.

The Democrats have won 220 seats to the Republicans’ 193 at last count, with 22 races still to go.

While that means the Democrats will gain control, it is hardly the “blue wave” many had predicted.

And midterm elections — which come two years into a president’s term — historically go against the president’s party.

That party loses 37 seats in the House on average in midterms when the president’s approval rating is below 50 per cent. The Republicans have only lost 27 to the Democrats so far, and managed to gain two seats in the Senate.

It is hard to call that a major backlash against Mr Trump’s policies or behaviour, although women performed well.

It would appear that “Trump regret” is not as pronounced as some might have hoped. All the knife-edge states where the President held rallies went the Republicans’ way.

And it could all be thanks to a genius move Mr Trump made as the poll approached.

“As President, Donald J Trump has headlined an unprecedented 50 rallies — 30 in the last two months alone — and he has campaigned for dozens of candidates at all levels of government,” the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

That’s 30 rallies in 60 days.

Because the US does not have a system of compulsory voting, like Australia, the key for Mr Trump was ensuring that his supporters showed up on polling day and voted.

His super-sized rallies, which often feel more like a rock concert, may have been the decisive factor in keeping the Democrats at bay, especially in the critical Senate races.

“The President has energised a staggering number of Americans at packed arenas and in overflow crowds at rallies across the country,” the White House said in a statement.

“Under President Trump’s leadership, the Republican National Committee has raised more than a quarter billion dollars, fuelling an extraordinary ground game geared toward defying midterm history and protecting the GOP’s majorities.”

The results paint a portrait of a country in a state of schism.

The Democrats won the popular vote by eight per cent, which is higher than the Republicans’ margin in 2010. But in 2010, the Republicans won back 63 seats — more than twice as many as the Left managed this week.

Many of the most progressive candidates in the midterm elections failed to achieve the heights their excited supporters had eagerly anticipated.

In Texas, rock star Democrat candidate Beto O’Rourke failed to unseat Senator Ted Cruz, although he is now being tipped for a presidential run in 2020.

Andrew Gillum, who campaigned to become Florida’s first African-American governor, lost to Republican Ron DeSantis in a close-fought race. Democrat Bill Nelson narrowly lost his seat to Rick Scott in the state’s Senate race.

Josh Hawley defeated one of the last remaining moderate senators, Democrat Claire McCaskill, in Missouri.

Democrat Stacey Abrams is lagging behind Brian Kemp in Georgia in the race to become the first female governor in the US — although she has not yet conceded.

And in Ohio, dubbed a “purple” state with Mr Trump’s popularity waning in the polls, Republican Attorney-General Mike DeWine beat Democrat Richard Cordray. According to local media: “(Democrats) vastly over-estimated their odds and underestimated just how conservative the state is.”

Mr Trump was defiant the day after the midterm elections, hailing the result as a “big victory” and hinting at a new age of even darker and more divided politics in the US.

America’s diametrically opposed forces are now perfectly encapsulated in a Congress split down the centre, with the upper and lower houses each run by a different party.

The President warned on Wednesday that the Republican-controlled Senate could punish the Democrats in return for any investigations against him they might launch in the House of Representatives, where they now have the majority.

His threat that “two can play that game” looks like an ominous portent of even more bitter infighting to come over the next two years.

And his combative press conference the day after the vote was evidence of that, as he tore into the “hostile media”, refusing to answer questions and demanding his critics be silenced.

He also mocked Republican candidates who did not support him and lost their seats, in a manner CNN journalists likened to the actions of mafia bosses in The Godfather movies.

It reflects the deep rift affecting all of America, between left-wing, educated progressives in urban centres; and right-wing, working class conservatives in rural areas.

Six in 10 voters said they believed the country was headed in the wrong direction — but roughly the same number described the national economy as excellent or good.

Mr Trump staked his claim on what The New York Times called the “dark politics of anger, division and fear.”

He campaigned on a message of anti-immigrant, anti-minority protectionism, and many Americans embraced it. With these elections out of the way, Mr Trump can focus on his bid for re-election, and he is likely to stick to his tried and tested methods of stoking discontentment and rage.

While some voters — particularly women — appear to have been turned off by his negativity and aggression, the US did not give an unequivocal middle finger to the President.

That’s why so many Democrats will now be even more afraid of what may happen in 2020.

And why the next two years in the US look set to be tarnished by more misery, recriminations and warring sides.

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