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Photo: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

President Trump heads into the wild days ahead stronger than ever: However things ultimately shake out in the presidential race, he did way better than most expected and was a rare voice saying Republicans could gain ground in the House.

Why it matters: Few Republican officials defied him before. It's hard to see many, if any, standing up to him now. 

The state of play: The president's appeal was broader than believed. He actually found new voters. Many of them were the working-class, white males who are the base of his base. But there were more of them.

  • These results contradict the argument that his 2016 victory was a fluke or mainly a repudiation of Hillary Clinton — or that he’d be resoundingly rejected for his handling of the coronavirus.

And something's happening with Hispanics for Republicans, though their full gains are still not precisely clear. Joe Biden never fully connected with the demographic — and the GOP did better in several areas than expected.

  • Back in August, former 2020 presidential candidate Julián Castro warned Alexi McCammond in an interview for "Axios on HBO" that Democrats could win the presidency in November but lose support with Latino voters, which could "benefit the Republicans in the years to come."

Yes, but: Despite the relative successes, Trump's overnight false claim that he had already won the election — even though key states are uncalled — drew consternation from some notable members of his party.

  • Trump is doing exactly what was foreshadowed — basing his claim on a "red mirage" of in-person votes that skew more heavily Republican than the mail-in votes added later in some battlegrounds.
  • On Fox News, Karl Rove said: "The bigger hand to play is to have confidence in the system ... Nobody is gonna be able to create large numbers of fake votes and somehow submit them into the system."
  • On ABC, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) added: "[A]s a former U.S. attorney, there's just no basis to make that argument tonight."
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Go deeper

Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.

Updated 3 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Silver medalist Lilly King of Team USA (left) embraces gold medalist Tatjana Schoenmaker of Team South Africa on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women's 200m breaststroke final on July 30. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

🥇 : U.S. gymnast Suni Lee wins gold in the women's individual all-around

🚣‍♀️: Team USA women's eight rowing fails to reach the podium

🤸🏾‍♀️: Simone Biles reacts to "love and support" after withdrawing from all-around gymnastics and team finals, citing her mental health

🏊: Olympic swimmer Ryan Murphy wins Silver in 200m

📷: In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 6 highlights

🗓: The Olympic events to watch today

🏃‍: Female Olympians push back against double standard in uniforms

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Former Michigan Sen. Carl Levin dies at 87

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) in 2014. He died Thursday. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) died Thursday, his family and the Levin Center at Wayne Law — which bore his name — confirmed. He was 87.

Why it matters: The Detroit native served for 36 years in the U.S. Senate, serving twice as chairman of the Armed Services Committee and is credited with helping overturn the military's “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule.