Donald Trump is not having a good day.
In crucial midterm elections in the United States this week, a 'red wave' projected by many of the late polls ended up being a trickle at the ballot box. The Republicans look set to eke out enough seats to reclaim the lower house in the US Congress but the Democrats could defy expectations and hold onto the Senate.
What's clear though, is that Donald Trump's vice-like grip on the Republican party has loosened significantly. While a number of election deniers who backed Trump's claims were elected to office, poor performances by some candidates he endorsed strongly indicates exhaustion with the kind of chaos brought to politics by the former president.
In a key Senate race, celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz who was heavily backed by Trump was defeated in an open Pennsylvania seat which the Democrats picked up in a win that could allow Joe Biden's party to keep control of the upper chamber.
CCN's chief correspondent Jim Acosta reported the former president was "livid" watching the results come in and was "screaming at everyone", citing a Trump advisor.
Ahead of polling day, Trump said he would make a big announcement next week, all but confirming he will announce his candidacy for the party's nomination for the presidency in 2024. But that is now under a dark cloud – complicated further by the fact that his strongest Republican challenger for the nomination, Governor Ron DeSantis, was re-elected in an absolute rout in Florida.
"The adviser said it’s unlikely Trump would delay his expected presidential announcement because 'it’s too humiliating to delay'. But the adviser said there are too many unknowns at this point," Acosta tweeted Thursday.
'We have a problem': Party begins to turn on Trump
Even the most sycophantic corners of America's partisan media were critical of the former Republican president. "Trump blasted across media spectrum over Republicans' midterms performance," a headline ran on Fox News overnight while pundits on rightwing Newsmax urged him to postpone his presidential announcement next week.
Appearing on Fox News, Republican Marc Thiessen described the election results as "a searing indictment" for the conservative side of politics in the country. "The Republican Party needs to do a really deep introspection look in the mirror right now because this is an absolute disaster," he said.
"One of the things that will likely come out of this election is Trump’s position in the party is now really questionable," Associate Professor David Smith, from the United States Studies Centre, told Yahoo News Australia.
"The face of the [Republican] party at this election were these Trump-backed senators, many of whom turned out to be unelectable ... Republicans will know that a ‘trumpified’ party has real trouble winning elections."
Trump effectively notched a victory in Ohio, where Hillbilly Elegy author JD Vance won a Senate seat to keep it in Republican hands. But Doug Mastriano, another Trump ally, was handily defeated in the governor's race in Pennsylvania. Trump allies have also underperformed in key races in Arizona, Georgia and Nevada where ballots were still being counted.
As it was put to Jacqui Heinrich, a White House correspondent for Fox News, by an anonymous Republican source: "if it wasn’t clear before it should be now. We have a Trump problem."
Even a slim majority in the House of Representatives would let Republicans hem in Democratic President Joe Biden during his next two years in office, blocking legislation and launching potentially politically damaging investigations.
Control of the Senate remains unclear, as Democrats picked up a seat in Pennsylvania but awaited results from Nevada, Georgia and Arizona that would define the outcome. An expected run-off election in Georgie means it might be weeks before the country knows which party will control the Senate.
If the Republicans do take control of Congress, they plan to seek cost savings in the Social Security and Medicare safety-net programs and make permanent tax cuts enacted in 2017 that are due to expire. Republicans also could engineer a showdown over the debt ceiling to extract major spending cuts, and could pare back aid to Ukraine.
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