PERHAPS it’s time America’s polling industry took a long, hard look at their methods. By any standards, most seem to have been a bit off the mark in their early breathless assessments of how the midterms would play out.

Though as I write, the final results are still to be tallied, what’s already clear is that the “Red Tsunami” expected by Republicans has not come to pass.

Sure, there was some good news for the GOP, not least in one of the party’s biggest victories in Florida, where governor Ron DeSantis won re-election with margins that Republicans hadn’t seen there in two decades. I say good news, but perhaps the man whose shadow has hung over this whole election – Donald Trump – won’t quite see it that way. More on that in a moment.

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The fact is that Trump’s branding has been all over this election. Not only did Trump endorse roughly 300 candidates during these midterms, but his super political action committee (PAC), MAGA Inc, spent more than $16 million on television advertising in the final month in six states – about 9% of all Republican spending in the same races during that time.

As The New York Times pointed out, not since 1908, when Teddy Roosevelt second-guessed his anointing of William Howard Taft as his Republican successor, has a former president been so active in party politics.

On Tuesday night, Trump spent the evening at his Palm Beach Mar-a-Lago club hosting a glitzy midterm election watch party for the in-crowd of the MAGA elite. By all accounts, it was a stormy night, meteorologically speaking, as wind and rain battered in, but that wasn’t the most unsettling experience of the evening.

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The uncomfortable fact for those Trump acolytes at his Mar-a-Lago shindig is that they had to watch as results confirmed how the more extreme candidates the former president endorsed fared worse than the average Republican. In a number of key states, Trump’s “chosen” men and women came up short and, in some cases, fared badly.

In Pennsylvania, the Democrat Josh Shapiro won the governor’s race against the Republican Doug Mastriano, who was Trump’s 2020 election-denying favourite. Another Trump favourite, Republican Mehmet Oz, was defeated by Democrat John Fetterman – flipping control of a US Senate seat.

Meanwhile, Tudor Dixon, Trump’s pick in the governor’s race, came up short in her bid to unseat Gretchen Whitmer. Two other Trump “champions”, Daniel Cox for Maryland governor and Don Bolduc for a New Hampshire Senate seat, also performed poorly.

The risk here for Trump is obvious in that losses by enough of his “chosen ones” could further fuel accusations that he committed the fatal tactical mistake of putting his personal pursuit of political vengeance above the interests of the GOP.

That his hand-picked candidates are now beginning to look as though they consistently underperform other Republicans could threaten to hamper plans for a Trump political comeback.

And speaking of another possible Trump bid for the White House brings me back to Ron DeSantis – or, as Trump has already dubbed him, “DeSanctimonious”. When viewed from a wider Republican perspective, DeSantis’s Florida victory should be welcomed, but Trump’s lust for power – along with his vanity and narcissism – means nothing irks him more than being sidelined or overshadowed. For a long time now, US political observers and indeed many within the GOP have insisted that DeSantis is the one to watch.

DeSantis (below) might be untested outside of Florida, but he’s a shrewd political operator, albeit one who has made a name for himself through being a champion of conservative “anti-woke” politics like his opposition to Covid-19 lockdowns in 2020 and the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

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Though condemned by Democratic officials, civil rights groups, LGBT+ advocates and health experts alike, he is, in the words of Doug Heye, a former Republican National Committee (RNC) spokesman, “Trump with substance”.

While that might ring alarm bells for many, his latest win in Florida has made him a “national star”, and fuelled expectations that he will run for president in 2024.

On Tuesday, DeSantis’s supporters’ chants of “two more years” – a nod to the possibility that he could step away from the governor’s office to seek the GOP nomination in 2024 – seemed to underline that. At the same time, it was anything but music to the ears of Trump.

Perhaps the strongest indicator of just how much of a threat to Trump’s own presidential hopes DeSantis’s political potency poses is the way in which the former president has already rounded on him with typical Trumpian menace.

“I think if he runs, he could hurt himself badly. I really believe he could hurt himself badly. I think he would be making a mistake,” Trump said, before adding: “I would tell you things about him that won’t be very flattering – I know more about him than anybody – other than, perhaps, his wife.”

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Even as I write and the full results have yet to be confirmed, a number of things are fast becoming evident from the midterms. The first is that while the Democrats will have their work cut out – especially if they lose control of the House – Joe Biden, as midterm presidents go, has fared better than his predecessors Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. Right now, in the polarised arena of US politics, that in itself is a win of sorts.

The second takeaway from the results is that the seething rivalry and growing animosity between Trump and DeSantis are almost certain to spill over into all-out political warfare should both, as is expected, have their eyes on the Republican nomination.

But the third and perhaps most significant factor emerging from the midterms is what they tell us about the American electorate itself and the current mood in the country.

Yes, Donald Trump was not on the ballot this time around, but he has spent the past two years behaving as if he was. There’s also no telling what would happen were he to stand again for the presidency in 2024.

But these elections were his golden opportunity to tighten his grip on the GOP ahead of any prospective White House bid – and in that, he has undoubtedly failed.

I accept that the midterms have never been the ultimate gauge of what lies ahead in US politics and presidential ambitions. On this occasion, though, they at least tell us that America is still smarting from the Trump years and is a long way yet from giving him another ringing endorsement.