Right now, from a Republican perspective, Trump’s electoral legacy is a mixed bag. Rural GOP candidates benefited from the president’s capacity to turn out the vote in 2020, while suburban and exurban Republicans managed to avoid being dragged down with the unpopular president. If the Senate holds, Republicans will have managed to defy expectations on nearly every electoral level — beating predictions to expand their reach on the state legislative level, in the U.S. House, and in the Senate. That perception would be dashed if Republicans manage to lose both U.S. Senate seats, handing Democrats unified control of the federal government.
If this happens, the following four years would be typified not by gridlock but by Democratic legislative victories and parliamentary maneuvers designed to sap the minority party of whatever leverage it currently has. The president’s image-makers will do their best to blame that condition on any and every implausible circumstance, but the obvious truth of the matter will be hard to avoid: In four years in office, Trump did to the GOP what it took Barack Obama eight years to do to Democrats. That’s a weakness Trump’s prospective Republican successors will exploit — and he will have aspiring successors.