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WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has been acting like a candidate on the ballot this week, staging daily double-header rallies and blasting out ads for Republicans up for election on Tuesday. Given the stakes for his presidency, he might as well be.
A knot of investigations. Partisan gridlock. A warning shot for his re-election bid. Trump faces potentially debilitating fallout should Republicans lose control of one or both chambers in Congress, ending two years of GOP hegemony in Washington. A White House that has struggled to stay on course under favorable circumstances would be tested in dramatic ways. A president who often battles his own party, would face a far less forgiving opposition.
On the flip side, if Republicans maintain control of the House and Senate, that’s note only a victory for the GOP, but a validation of Trump’s brand of politics and his unconventional presidency. That result, considered less likely even within the White House, would embolden the president as he launches his own re-election bid.
White House aides insist the president doesn’t spend much time contemplating defeat, but he has begun to try to calibrate expectations. He has focused on the competitive Senate races the final days of his scorched-earth campaign blitz, and has distanced himself from blame should Republicans lose the House. If that happens, he intends to claim victory, arguing his efforts on the campaign trail narrowed GOP losses and helped them hold the Senate, according to a person familiar with Trump’s thinking who asked for anonymity because the person was not authorized to discuss White House conversations by name.
Throughout the campaign, Trump has been testing out other explanations — pointing to historical headwinds for the party of an incumbent president and complaining about a rash of GOP retirements this year. He told the AP last month that he won’t bear any responsibility should Democrats take over.
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