Why the GOP shouldn't get too cocky after winning in November
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The race for the White House has officially ended and by all accounts, the GOP scored a resounding victory.

In 2017, Republicans will control an overwhelming majority of governorships and state houses, along with the White House and Congress. Even though Republicans were defending more seats and Democratic nominee Clinton vastly outspent Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpPentagon update to missile defense doctrine will explore space-base technologies, lasers to counter threats Giuliani: 'I never said there was no collusion' between the Trump campaign and Russia Former congressmen, RNC members appointed to Trump administration roles MORE, the Grand Old Party is firmly in control of all levers of political power.

Moreover, expect President-elect Donald Trump to nominate a replacement to the vacant seat left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, which could also shift the balance of power on the Supreme Court in favor of conservatives.

However, though the GOP is firmly planted in the catbird seat, it would be prudent not to overreach or interpret the Nov. 8 victories as a mandate to move the country further right.

Trump's unorthodox campaign gave him a shocking Electoral College victory, also helping vulnerable House and Senate Republicans survive spirited challenges.

Yet, look closely at the numbers behind the triumph, and danger could be lurking for the GOP.

Trump received a smaller percentage of the overall vote total than 2012 GOP nominee nominee Mitt Romney. In fact, when the final numbers are tallied, Clinton will finish with an approximate 2 million ballot advantage in the popular vote.

Additionally, while Trump was able to smash through Clinton's "blue wall" of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania — an impressive feat not accomplished by a Republican since 1984 — his closer-than-expected victories in traditional red states like Arizona, Georgia and Texas suggest a GOP expansion of the electoral map could be tougher than expected in future White House races.

Raw data aside, perhaps the biggest challenge facing the GOP is the GOP itself. Republicans have been warring internally since Romney's defeat. Unfortunately, many of the key issues addressed in the now-infamous GOP autopsy after their 2012 defeat still remain.

This year's victory will certainly stop the bleeding and heal the wounds inflicted from years of incessant infighting. But make no mistake: The fault lines are still very much exposed and waiting to be exploited by a very vocal opposition.

For these reasons, questions abound about the GOP's ability to set aside longstanding differences after eight years out of power.

Trump's recent appointment of his campaign chair, Steve Bannon, to chief strategist and adviser offers hints at potential internal tensions. The former Breitbart CEO has made no secret of his disdain for House Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse vote fails to quell storm surrounding Steve King House passes resolution condemning white nationalism Anti-Defamation League calls on House leaders to censure Steve King over white supremacy comments MORE (R-Wis.). Therefore, do not expect Bannon to seek out Ryan as an ally and partner to shape and lead a Trump agenda in the House.

Years in the political wilderness — serving as the "Party of No" — will pose unique challenges to the efforts of actually governing that could further divide, rather than unify, an already fragile GOP.

Perhaps spurring much of this division is the GOP's over-reliance on an energized and motivated, yet rapidly diminishing, white electorate. The white vote this year was at an all-time low of 69 percent, 3 percentage points lower than just four years ago.

In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, despite Trump's phenomenal showing in rural areas, he surprisingly won white voters by a margin almost identical to that of Romney in 2012. Moreover, he only narrowly bested Clinton among college-educated white voters — by 4 points. While Trump performed slightly better than Romney among Hispanics and African-Americans, white voters undoubtedly make up the base of his support.

So such numbers are troubling news considering the diminishing returns from this once-dominant voting bloc.

To the victors go the spoils, and Trump and the GOP will reap the electoral benefits. Still, Trump and congressional leaders will preside over a deeply divided nation amid a triumph that by no means was defining or dominant.

Party divisions, rapidly changing demographics and a very fervent and ardent opposition remain dangerous threats to the GOP's tenuous hold on national political power. Republicans are walking a political tightrope and one wrong move — a miscalculated overreach, an exposed public feud — and the entire party could go over a cliff.

Democrats are bruised and battered, but the newly installed Senate Democratic chairman of outreach, Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs Overnight Energy: Wheeler weathers climate criticism at confirmation hearing | Dems want Interior to stop drilling work during shutdown | 2018 was hottest year for oceans Dems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour MORE (I-Vt.), along with progressive champion Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenMoveOn leaders stepping down before 2020 election Julián Castro calls for ‘tuition-free’ public colleges, apprenticeships Native American leader asks when US will come to its ‘senses’ after Trump’s ‘racist’ attack against Warren MORE (D-Mass.), will form a formidable duo battling for the populist platform seized by the Trump campaign.

Also, with a record number of women of color (35) joining the Democratic ranks in Congress, liberals are positioning themselves to wrest back what little gains Trump made among women and voters of color.

The enormous power that voters granted the GOP, if not careful, can cut like a two-edged sword. Republicans should wield it wisely.

Ham is a national political analyst and author of the bestselling book, "The GOP Civil War: Inside the Battle for the Soul of the Republican Party." Visit him at www.thegopcivilwar.com.


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