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Analysis

Trump surprised everyone when he won in 2016. Then he effectively lost three elections in a row.

Former president Donald Trump.Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

Donald Trump says he doesn’t like losers. But here is the reality: Trump has effectively lost three elections in a row, in 2018, 2020, and 2022.

No, his name wasn’t on the ballot in 2018. But the midterm elections that year became a referendum on his presidency. The result: Democrats took back the House and picked up seats in the Senate.

Two years later, Trump lost the presidency.

On Tuesday, his name wasn’t on the ballot, either, but he engaged in such a flurry of activity that the election became as much about him as it was about President Biden. Aiming to demonstrate he was the dominant force in his party, Trump endorsed some 300 candidates in this week’s elections, and in some cases handpicked candidates for major offices. He crisscrossed the country holding rallies until the end for his candidates.

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The result? Many candidates who embraced Trump-ism and election-denying fell short in competitive races.

This was true in New England, with Paul LePage’s failed comeback bid for Maine governor, and in New Hampshire, with candidates for US House and Senate. This included Pennsylvania, where Trump-supported candidates lost the governor and Senate races despite a weekend of last-minute stumping by the former president. The Senate race, in which Dr. Mehmet Oz lost to John Fetterman, actually flipped a Republican seat to the Democrats.

The same held true for gubernatorial candidates he endorsed and rallied with in Wisconsin, Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, New Mexico, Kansas, Minnesota, and possibly in Arizona, where the race has yet to be called. These losses came in addition to Georgia’s Brian Kemp defeating Trump’s candidate in the Republican primary. Kemp, who has been openly critical of Trump, went on to beat Stacey Abrams in the general election Tuesday night.

In politics, you win some and lose some. But the blame for Tuesday night’s poor showing didn’t land on Republican leaders of the House or Senate or the individual campaigns. No one is even blaming the chair of the Republican National Committee. To many Republican observers, it’s Trump’s fault.

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Even Biden is in on it. During a White House press conference Wednesday, a reporter called Trump’s political operation strong, and Biden quipped, “oh yeah?”

Of course, Trump did net some wins. Without his backing, J.D. Vance of Ohio and Ted Budd of North Carolina wouldn’t be headed to the Senate. While election deniers lost a number of secretary of state races in pivotal states, they are leading in too-close-to-call contests in Arizona and Nevada.

But you know who had more wins on Tuesday night? Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who is now in a much stronger position to take the party away from Trump in the 2024 presidential election. After Tuesday night, Florida Republicans have won every single cabinet position in Tallahassee, control of the state House and state Senate, both US Senate seats, and 20 out of 28 US House seats. And, of course, DeSantis won his own reelection bid for governor. Republicans haven’t done this well in Florida in a long time.

Before the election, with expectations for a “red wave” running strong in Republican circles, the former president teased that he could launch a presidential campaign as early as next week. After Tuesday night’s results, he might hold off. But if he does, he’ll risk losing his fourth election in a row.

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James Pindell can be reached at james.pindell@globe.com. Follow him @jamespindell and on Instagram @jameswpindell.