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Mixed messages from US elections

In typical fashion, Donald Trump claimed victory in the US mid-term elections, despite Republicans losing control of the House of Representatives.

In fairness to the president, the election was not as bad as some had predicted and the fact that his party not only held onto its majority in the upper chamber but also added to it, gave him something to crow about.

There were reasons why the so-called 'blue wave' of Democratic support did not sweep over the Senate, where only 35 seats were up for grabs, compared to the House of Representatives where all 435 seats were contested.

However, controlling the lower chamber is a significant gain for the Democrats. As leading Democrat Nancy Pelosi put it yesterday, the elections were about 'restoring the constitution's checks and balances'.

Those checks and balances are crucial in any democratic system but arguably even more so in the case of Mr Trump who is shameless in his trampling of the normal standards that apply to politics, with a complete disregard for some of the rights that have been established over many years.

It remains to be seen what the Democrats will choose to do with their hard won clout amid speculation they could bog the president down in investigations.

It will make for interesting times but Mr Trump will also take comfort from the fact that the vote this week showed he retains a considerable level of support, despite his alarming utterances.

Clearly, the improved economic picture has helped Republican candidates and the fact that the poll was not a disaster increases the likelihood that Mr Trump will run again in 2020.

Attention will now turn to this vital race and the Democrats will be mulling which of their leading figures stands the best chance of toppling the incumbent. Do they go for experience in the shape of popular former vice president Joe Biden or the rising star Beto O'Rourke? There are other well-regarded potential candidates being touted including Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker.

While there a number of mixed messages coming out of this election, what is clear is that the United States under Donald Trump is a deeply divided country.

There are many positives, including a high turnout and the election of a record number of women to the House of Representatives.

But this is an election which has exposed the sharp differences in the make up of voters, with Republicans appealing to older, white males who are less likely to have a college degree.

Democrats attracted women, black voters, young people and college graduates.

Mr Trump has called for cross-party cooperation on legislative priorities but few believe this combative president is interested in building bridges.

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