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President Trump speaks in the East Room early this morning. Photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters

Win or lose, President Trump will emerge more powerful than ever inside the GOP, by defying expectations for himself and lifting fellow Republicans to surprise victories in the House and Senate.

Why it matters: Trump enjoyed an almost messianic hold on Republicans before the election. Now, he looks like a prophet again, against the doomsday projections for his candidacy and his party’s congressional hopes.

Between the lines: Trump will use this power to try to invalidate late-counted votes. His advisers tell us Trump expects lawmakers and the courts to fall in line.

  • If he fails, he could create a parallel government-in-waiting, wielding control over Republicans, and heckling and hounding Biden — and the media.
  • Trump did better than expected with white women and with Hispanics.

Top Republican strategists tell us that Trump will have a powerful psychic hold over the party regardless of the result.

  • Trump, if he loses, may signal he'll run again in 2024.
  • By falsely claiming to millions of adoring voters that the election was stolen — and by dangling the possibility of redemption in 2024 — Trump can effectively freeze his party for four years.

The bottom line: The party structure is weak, and Trump is by far the most popular Republican in the land. So top Republican operatives believe the GOP won’t be able to have a serious reset until the party has a new nominee in 2024.

  • But by defying polls and maintaining his grip over the Republican electorate, Trump makes that task extremely difficult if not impossible. This is Trump’s party until he decides it is not.

Jonathan Swan contributed reporting.

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Go deeper

Conservatives warn culture, political wars will worsen

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The verdict is clear: The vast majority of Republicans will stand firm with former President Trump. The next phase is clear, too: Republicans are rallying around a common grievance that big government, big media and big business are trying to shut them up, shut them out and shut them down. 

Why it matters: The post-Trump GOP, especially its most powerful media platforms, paint the new reality as an existential threat. This means political attacks are seen — or characterized — as assaults on their very being. 

House passes $768 billion defense spending bill

Photo: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The House approved a $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2022 fiscal year in a bipartisan 316-113 vote on Thursday.

Why it matters: The annual bill, which authorizes Pentagon spending levels and guides policy for the department, would require women to register for the military draft, among other provisions.

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Republicans’ secret lobbying

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The five Senate Republicans who helped negotiate and draft the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill have been privately courting their Republican colleagues to pass the measure in the House.

Why it matters: House GOP leaders are actively urging their members to oppose the bill. The senators are working to undercut that effort as Monday shapes up as a do-or-die moment for the bipartisan bill.