Schoeneman: Takeaways from Tuesday’s Tsunami

We’re a few days removed from the recent unpleasantness, and we’re starting to see some narratives come together about what happened and why.

The knee jerk reaction, via Twitter, came immediately after the election from President Trump himself, arguing it was clearly the failure of Ed Gillespie to not embrace him that cost Gillespie the election.  This was followed up by Trump’s dingleberry, Corey Stewart, arguing Republicans in Virginia had nominated a moderate and got what they deserved.

Here is why this narrative from the President and Corey Stewart is weak bullshit:

The idea that Gillespie didn’t embrace Trump enough and the result was Trump supporters stayed home is wrong.  What happened was Ed Gillespie broke the record for GOP turnout in a Governor’s race – his nearly 1.2 million votes in the election was more than any GOP governor candidate in history.  In fact, it was more than any successful gubernatorial candidate in Virginia history…other than Ralph Northam.  Gillespie did as well as anybody could have expected.  That he kept the race as close as he did in this environment, and earned the number of votes he received, is a good thing.  That sets a bar for future gubernatorial candidates.  The same can be said for Jill Vogel and John Adams – both solid candidates that would have easily been elected in any other political environment than this one.

Northam’s 1.4 million votes was unprecedented.  No statewide candidate in the history of Virginia has ever gotten that many votes in a non-presidential election.  In fact, Northam also beat every elected US President in history, other than George W. Bush (only his second term, though) and Barack Obama. He was only 50,000 votes away from beating John Kerry’s total in 2004.

The Democrats deserve the credit they’ve earned – they finally cracked the code on how to beat the normal off-year election ennui that tends to infect their party.  All it takes is the most hated sitting president since Richard Nixon, coupled with a white supremacist murdering an innocent woman on hallowed Virginia ground in Charlottesville.

There could not have been a worse year for Republicans to run.  Trump’s approval ratings with the general public in Virginia hovers somewhere between horse manure and polio, yet his approval ratings with Republicans remain steadily high.  This forces a Republican candidate to have to walk a knife’s edge – distance too far from the President and you risk alienating your base, hug him too closely and you risk turning off independents and suburbanites who do not support the President.  When it comes down to it, many Republicans hate the Republican Party right now – either because they don’t like Trump or they don’t like the establishment, or they don’t like that we control everything in Washington and nothing is getting done.  That translates into people either leaving the party, or independents who tend to vote Republican not doing so to “send a message”.  You also have the fact that the entire Democratic party, from the middle to the far left, hates Trump so much they will crawl over broken glass to give him the finger, and if they can’t do that, they’ll give it to you and tell you to send him the message.  That puts every Republican candidate in an impossible position, and whatever happens, somebody is going to say what they did was wrong.  And that’s true – sometimes there is no right answer, except not to play.

Trump cost Republicans the large majority they’ve enjoyed in the House of Delegates for nearly a generation.  Candidates from across the entire political spectrum on the GOP side, from moderates to super conservatives, lost.  People who loved Trump and campaigned with him, and those who kept him at arms length both lost.  Why?  Because they were Republicans, and this campaign season wasn’t about policy or local issues, it was about Democrats getting even and sending a message to Trump, and nobody – not even your most ardent #nevertrump supporter – would have been immune.

I’ve got to hand it to my friend Dave Albo – he’s one of the smartest guys in politics and he’s got to be savoring his decision to retire rather than be a part of the bloodbath Tuesday night.  He decided not to play – one of the only right decisions a Republican could have made this year – and that’s why he’s one of the biggest winners right now.

Furthermore, all the folks out there who think political gerrymandering is a huge issue just saw their primary arguments blown up in their faces. More than a dozen carefully drawn GOP districts saw long-time incumbents lose.  No amount of gerrymandering was going to save those seats, and they didn’t. Perhaps now we can stop pretending that the push to oppose gerrymandering is really that necessary.

If we’re going to figure out how to get back on course, the first thing we need to do is be honest with ourselves.  Whether you like Trump or you hate him, most Virginians do not find his style of politics palatable, and while he is President those voters are going to take that dislike out on our Republican candidates, at all levels.  Remember, he did not win Virginia, something Corey Stewart seems to forget. Thus, you can expect that any Republican held districts where Hillary outperformed Trump in 2016 are going to flip, if they haven’t already done so.  Statewide, it’s going to be extremely difficult for Republicans to win so long as Trump is as unpopular as he is.  I am also very concerned about our Congressional seats next year, especially the 6th District, where Bob Goodlatte has announced his retirement as I wrote this article.

As for next year’s Senate race, if Corey Stewart wants it, I say let him have it.  Watching him get destroyed by the Democrats’ Pretty Hate Machine – which he helped build, thanks to his Confederate statues idiocy – will be almost as much fun to watch as Bob Marshall losing to a transgender woman.

The next three years are going to be challenging for the GOP in Virginia, and there is no amount of politicking, cute and clever advertisements, or manufactured outrage that is going to change that.  We simply must endure, like the Democrats have had to endure, knowing the pendulum will swing back in our direction eventually, and the albatross around our collective necks won’t be there forever.

Our majorities, at all levels, are likely living on borrowed time.  Thus, it’s in everybody’s best interests if our elected officials take advantage of that fact and govern like there will be no tomorrow for them.  Get good policies done that solve problems and help people, and don’t worry about reelection.

  • Jim Portugul

    If Republicans pass that phony tax increase bill, which forces the the middle-class to pay more in taxes in order to finance tax cuts for the rich, next November will be an even bigger purge of Republicans. If it passes (it will in some form) corporations and the rich will then send some of their increased wealth to Republican campaigns and PAC’s to try to buy elections. This tax increase plan is the Republicans/Trumps version of the $9 Billion unfunded payback Republicans/Bush 43’ did for drug companies.

    People should be concerned about jobs. Trump so far is not creating as many jobs as Obama and the trade imbalance with Communist China is actually increasing under Trump.

    • Chris

      Too bad Trump is too stupid to realize this, and his sycophants over at Fox News and Brietbart are happily touting his mediocre economy as the best ever. If you say something often enough…?

      • Jim Portugul

        Yep. Check the price of diesel and gas January vs. now. The bastards are going to raise our taxes, raise healthcare insurance prices, and raise energy prices.

        Trump is the king of the establishment, and he knows that the Republican base is to stupid to know it. The establishment will get all they can now since they know we are going to kick their asses out next November.

  • MD Russ

    Well said, Brian. I wish that I had written this, esp. the part about gerrymandering. People forget that the current Virginia Senate was gerrymandered by a Democratic majority at the time and yet still is in Republican control.

    • notjohnsmosby

      We couldn’t create 21 seats at the time that were safe. Roscoe Reynolds and Puckett’s seats were history as soon as they retired. We were only able to create 19 safe seats and a few swing seats, which is what we have today. We’ll probably pick up the swing seats in 2019.

      • JWS

        Roscoe did not retire but was defeated by Bill Stanley in a result that even many Republicans bemoan.

        Not sure that swing Senate seats will be any more favorable for the GOP in 2019 than House districts were this year. Also, Dick Black has a big ole Bob Marshall target on his backside that year.

        • notjohnsmosby

          I should have said “Reynolds and Pucketts seats would be gone for good sooner or later”.

          Dick Black and the two seats around Richmond that were close last year will be in play. Plus Reeves’s seat.

    • JWS

      Actually, the statement about the Senate is not quite complete. If you’ll remember, Governor McDonnell vetoed the first redistricting bill based on claims that the Senate’s plan was too partisan, even while allowing equally or more extreme gerrymandering of the HoD and congressional districts.

      Then Dick Saslaw, in his own inimitable way, caved, producing a map far less favorable for Democrats.

    • Chris

      @notlarrysabato has been desperately arguing on twitter against claims of gerrymandering for the past two days

  • old_redneck

    The Chinese have an adage: “When riding the tiger, it’s difficult to dismount.”

    ? ? ? ?

    For three decades the Republican party nationwide has been riding a tiger of Jim Crow Southerners, “militia,” gunnuts, people who hate “those people,” trickle-down believers, and assorted half-wits and moonbats. And now, when you try to dismount . . . .

    • GOTV

      This is so much BS

      Republicans didn’t even create Jim Crow politics … get your history right.

      • Chris

        redneck did not say that Republicans created Jim Crow politics. He said they have been riding the tiger.

        Perhaps you should read up on the “Southern Strategy.”

        And then ask yourself, if Teddy Roosevelt was alive today, would he be a Republican or a Democrat?

      • notjohnsmosby

        Republicans didn’t invent it, but the Republican Party accepted conservative southern Democrats with open arms when they lost control of the Democratic party in the 60s and 70s. The liberal/moderate wing of the Republican Party has been traded out for conservative rural and/or Southern Dems.

        • Craig Scott

          I disagree, the only Dixiecrat ever to come over to the Republicans was Strom Thurmond. In the South racism is overt, in the North racism is covert. I have lived in both areas and I find racism much more virulent in the North. In the old Democrat party the paramilitary arm was the Klan and in the current Democrat party the paramilitary arm is Antifa. Both spouting racism and fascism. Racism and eugenics were (and are? i.e. Margaret Sanger) pushed by Democrats in Virginia.

          • old_redneck

            And now we hear from another Foxophile who thinks history stopped in 1964.

            Strom Thurmond the only Dixiecrat? Nonsense. Are you aware of the fact that, after he signed an executive order desegregating the military, Truman’s name was removed from the ballot in Alabama?

            Yep, that ol’ anti-fa is everywhere. They even hold weekly cross-burnings . . . and I’m waiting for 20,000 of them to march down Independence Ave in DC.

          • Craig Scott

            Yes I am. I am also aware that Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Robert Byrd were members of the Klan. I am aware that Windrow Wilson segregated the military and is the worse president. I am aware that Antifa and BAM burn destroy property, suppress free speech across the nation, spew racial hatred, and are failed. I aware that the current welfare state has destroyed the minority communities. I am aware that the unlawful drug war has turned the black male population into prison slaves. I am aware you often use ad hominem attacks. Yes I am aware that (I am pro choice until brain waive activity in the fetus and is up to the states lawfully) Democrat front group Plan Parenthood uses abortion for eugenics and uses ghoulish body parts for profit. I am aware what was the Klan was and is.I aware that government forms have racial quota information on them. I aware this limited space is not the forum for your arrogance.
            “…the only Dixiecrat ever to come over to the Republicans was Strom Thurmond.” That is all I said you project too much.

          • notjohnsmosby

            Like I said, WHEN THEY LOST CONTROL OF THE DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN THE 60s AND 70s. Before – Racist Southern Democrats. After – Racist Southern Republicans. Not just candidates but voters as well. Raging racists like Jeanine Martin were members of Fairfax Dems back in the 70s. Same people, just operating under a different brand, and that brand is currently the Republican Party.

      • old_redneck

        NO, sir, you are the one who needs to get his history straight.

        I was born in 1944 and reared in Wilkinson County, Mississippi. My G-g-grandfather along with his brothers, father, and uncles were planters in LA and MS — over 30,000 acres, more than 250 slaves. Of the many items I inherited from my maternal grandparents is one uncle’s KKK robe. My grandfather carried a pistol and slept with a shotgun because of his lifetime war against the Klan.

        I have forgotten more than you’ll ever know about Jim Crow, the Black Codes, “christian academies,” and all the other tricks adopted by Democrats and now used by Republicans to maintain segregation.

        Another respondent mentioned Nixon’s Southern Strategy . . . you need to read up on it.

        Meanwhile: Saint Ronnie Reagan was born in Illinois, went to California to seek his fortune. In 1980, after he was nominated by the GOP as their Presidential candidate, where did he go to make his first speech: Illinois to celebrate middle America, or, California, to celebrate the land of opportunity???

        Answer: Neither. Reagan made his first speech as the 1980 Republican candidate at the Neshoba (Mississippi) County Fair — Philadelphia, MS — the scene in 1964 of the kidnapping, torture and murder of three young men who were registering black people to vote. Reagan told a shrieking, foot-stomping all-white crowd “I support states’ rights!!”

        While Democrats invented Jim Crow, we turned our backs on ol’ Jim with LBJ’s passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. Republicans gleefully picked up Jim Crow and he is now a critical, integral part of your party.

        By the way, don’t give me the usual crap about how only Republicans voted for the Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts. Southern Democrats AND Southern Republicans opposed the two acts — Democrats form the rest of the country voted for the two acts and it was their votes that passed both acts.

  • MrSmith

    Anyone with any knowledge of Virginia politics knows that the failure of DC Republicans to pass an alternative to ‘expanded medicaid’ cost us this election.
    *Anyone with any knowledge *
    This blatant self-serving dishonesty has to be expelled before the Party can recover.

    • MrSmith

      #1 issue in Va election- healthcare. And that will be repeated across the nation in 2018.
      The Republican failures in DC have managed to do nothing but take on the blame for Obamacare’s failures.
      Oh, and they’re going to repeat their amazing feat with ‘tax reform’.
      Anything to ‘protect’ us from Trump LOL!

      • I really don’t think the medicaid expansion is what cost us this election.

    • Stephen Spiker

      So in this theory, voters would’ve voted Republican had Congress repealed Obamacare… but because they didn’t, they voted for Democrats?

      You must realize how nonsensical that is, right?

  • Jim Portugul

    Ok Mr. Schoeneman, I’ll say it. The reason Republicans tanked Tuesday is because you walked away from Bearing Drift. Tuesday’s loss is on your shoulders…….

  • David Eggleston

    Personally, I think letting Stewart have the nomination will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. There is no amount of rebranding or reform that can overcome his stink.

    • Russ Gottwald

      I’ll mix clichés and say that’ll be beating the dead camel whose back was broken by the corpulent cheeto currently resident in the White House. Stewart’s reek is mild flatulence next to what emanates from the President.

      • David Eggleston

        So you hate Trump but would settle for Korey Stewart? ????

        • Russ Gottwald

          Rather the opposite…they’re both loathsome. But I think it’s absurd to say “yeah, I could grin and bear Trump but Stewart’s just a bridge too far”.

          • David Eggleston

            I’m saying the large percentage of the GOP who have been fighting the Trumpists will walk away. Plus, Korey is so crazy he a) was fired by Trump, b) actively campaigned with open white supremacists, and c) drunkenly attacked the Charlottesville counter-protesters on camera. So, I do think he’s even more toxic than the orange benzene ring across the Potomac, and he’s just that much closer to home.

          • Russ Gottwald

            Excellent! Those of us who’ve already walked away will enjoy the company. The GOP deserves the dustbin of history at this point.

          • David Eggleston

            Still winning friends and influencing people, I see.

    • Stephen Spiker

      Yes and no. On one hand, we will certainly lose more voters by going the next 12 months with Corey’s ruinous brand of politicking.

      On the other hand, he will uncontestedly be the face of the party for the next 12 months, and after he crashes and burns there will have to be folks remaining to pick up the pieces. Perhaps accelerating the decline will help speed up the rebuild, like tanking for a higher draft pick?

      • David Eggleston

        That depends on how many people feel the GOP brand is worth saving. We Republicans constantly talk about Reagan Democrats, but if Stewart is the nominee, I know plenty of folks who will become Kaine Republicans.

        • Stephen Spiker

          We have a two-party system. There will always be a counter-balancing party to the dominant party.

          • David Eggleston

            I know that. I’m just positing that our Whig Moment is coming faster than some folks think.

    • Cam

      Corey Stewart will likely get out the white vote in a manner that Gillespie, an old-school GW Bush guy, could never do.

      At least Corey seems to understand the cultural warfare nature of the current environment and is willing to fight on those terms.

      Gillespie and his Never-Trump campaign seemed to be stuck in 1999 or so.

      Ironically, the demographics shifted in Northern Virginia during GW Bush’s tenure, so it’s really karmatic justice for Gillespie that he gets crushed by them.

  • Craig Scott

    Sell freedom vs. statism / corporatism. Take the fight to minority areas
    through out the commonwealth. Market based school and health choices
    are winners for these (really all) communities. Reform the marijuana laws, this will free up resources, increase revenues and lessen gang (drug) violence.
    Remove the (hated) vehicle tax, at least on cars and trucks below 30k.
    This will peel off libertarian leaning Democrats of northern Virginia.
    Win / win strategies will help to unite our Republican party also.

    • Russ Gottwald

      Your suggestions have merit, but it’s pretty tough to sell freedom vs. statism when the party is led by a fascist-adjacent gasbag who spouts adulation for dictators at every opportunity.

      • Craig Scott

        You are right, and this happens, far too often at the very least. Without a fighting change then the party will continue to become a poor echo of the Democrats in Virginia.
        Or call me skeptical / cynical?
        In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

    • Stephen Spiker

      Many and more Republicans rejected market-based solutions. Angry populism and freedom don’t mix well.

    • Cam

      The democrats in northern Virginia aren’t “libertarian” in the least.

      You’re also making the common mistake of assuming that “minority areas” share your values and are thus interested in “market based” school and healthcare choices.

      The demographic realities make it virtually impossible for the GOP to win in Virginia outside of a candidate who is able to galvanize the white vote considerably enough to overcome minority-majority Northern Virginia.

  • Paddycakes

    Poorest excuse for Gerrymandering I’ve ever seen.

  • billdozer

    Great analysis. Medicaid expansion, although not an issue of the campaign, will be a consequence of this outcome. I also wouldn’t be surprise if issues we hardly debate in Virginia: gun control, RtW, statewide employer restrictions, etc. will take shape in the years to come in the GA.

  • Chris

    Your voice has been sorely missed, Brian.

    • David Obermark

      Welcome back Brian. I will get around to arguing with you on finer points later. For now I will just applaud.

  • Craig Scott

    A nearly 50 year political veteran’s take on the Old Dominion recent election….

    That Bloodbath in the Old Dominion

    By Patrick J. Buchanan

    The day after his “Silent Majority” speech on Nov. 3, 1969, calling on Americans to stand with him for peace with honor in Vietnam, Richard Nixon’s GOP captured the governorships of Virginia and New Jersey.

    By December, Nixon had reached 68 percent approval in the Gallup Poll, though, a year earlier, he had won but 43 percent of the vote.

    Contrast Nixon’s numbers with President Trump’s.

    Continued –

    Oh, and thank you Brian for your observations.

  • Lawrence Wood

    Looking at 2013 or earlier state gubernatorial numbers without adjusting for raw demographic state growth across the board and preferably by county voting tier strata (urban, mid-size, small) to self justify any gross turnout count is of questionable validity but the reader can be their own judge of that.

    I was interested in the 2016 vs 2017 comparisons but given one was a presidential race realized the actual gross numbers would not be a straight apples to apples comparison. So I stratified the state’s counties into three tiers summarized the raw vote count and then only really looked at the adjusted gross percentages this normalized raw vote produced.

    By segmenting the counties by the “Major 12” (heavily representing NoVa and other urban areas), from the 50 2nd tier counties and placing the remaining 71 counties in Tier 3 (they account for less than 500K votes total so I didn’t include their summaries here but have them if anyone is interested) you see a trend that looks amazingly similar to the Clinton Virginia blue state presidential win.

    The one thing that does pop out is that Trump was able to recover some ground in the Tier 3 county vote population far more effectively than Gillespie accomplished. These are almost totally rural counties so perhaps not a big surprise they played a larger role for him than they did for Gillespie.

    The data ended looking like this:

    2016 Contest
    Clinton’s vote count for Tier 1 counties was 1,220,898 (63.8%), Clinton’s Tier 2 counties count was 572,080 (43.8%). Trump’s vote count for Tier 1 counties 692,625 (36.2%), Trump’s Tier 2 counties 735,471 (56.2%). Total vote count for Tier 1 was 1,913,523 votes and for Tier 2 was 1,307,551 votes. Subtotals had Hillary PLUS 528,273 votes for Tier 1 and Trump PLUS 163,291 votes for Tier 2. Trump was down a TOTAL of 364,882 votes or 11.3% minus any tabulated Tier 3 vote count results.

    2017 Contest
    Northam’s vote count for the Tier 1 counties was 866,967 (64.4%), Northam’s Tier 2 counties vote count was 400,770 (44.3%). Gillespie’s vote count for Tier 1 counties was 479,298 (35.6%), Gillespie’s Tier 2 counties count was 504,484 (55.7%). Total vote count for Tier 1 was 1,346,265 votes and for Tier 2 was 905,254 votes. Subtotals had Northam PLUS 387,669 votes for Tier 1 and Gillespie PLUS 103,714 votes for Tier 2. Gillespie was down a TOTAL of 283,955 votes or 7.9% minus any tabulated Tier 3 vote count.

    These percentage adjusted breakdowns are very similar across the two races although Trump did perform “slightly better” than Gillespie across all tiers. I make no grand assumptions here besides this may (and I emphasis may) be the beginnings of a state party based profile turnout that we will not see the last of regardless of candidate unless some fundamental changes are made at the candidate presentation level. Is Trump the main analytic variable driving the model? Highly, highly unlikely.

    • Stephen Spiker

      This isn’t complicated. Trump’s candidacy moved college educated votesr — and the suburbs where they reside — against Republicans.

      Trump had better margins than Gillespie in suburban counties because Northam was more popular than Clinton and the presence of significant third-party campaigns. Gillespie overperformed Trump in terms of vote percentage in those counties.

  • mark Jawsz

    The fact is that it is more than just the poor who need Medicaid. It is also those folks making somewhere between $30 to $50K. In fact, for various reasons, one of which is low-skilled third world immigration, health insurance premiums are now way beyond the reach of those making working class wages – something which the GOP has totally failed to address.

    • Stephen Spiker

      Honest question: Is there anything that you *don’t* believe kicking out all the brown people would be a magical elixir for?

  • Cam

    More typical over-analyzing from BS; too cowardly to face the elephant in the room.

    The fact is: Northern Virginia has browned and this inexorable demographic shift makes it impossible for the GOP to win.

    John Whitbeck summed it up when he noted something to the effect of “They just called us racists.”

    What do you expect? Today’s democrat party is an anti-white, anti-Christian political party. If you are white and you are not a democrat, you are a “racist” and a “nazi”.

    Are we so naive and so cowardly as to be unwilling to face these simple facts?

    • notjohnsmosby

      Maybe we call you racist because you use terms like “Northern Virginia has browned”.

      • Cam

        Northern Virginia might even be minority majority at this point. At least in Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria. It’s okay to be white.

        • Fairfax County is 60% white.

          • Cam

            Have spent a great deal of time there and I’ve never gotten that impression. Call it anecdotal evidence.

          • Well, I live here, and it’s pretty white.

          • notjohnsmosby

            Cam personifies today’s Republican Party. Too stupid to even Google for stats on something, he just spouts paranoid shit.

    • Turtles Run

      Northern Virginia has browned…..

      Heaven forbid the GOP try to convince these “brown” voters that actually want to represent them. Addressing the population in your manner is why you are called “racist”.

      It is real simple: if someone does not want to be called a racist do not say or do racist shaite.

      ~Some brown guy named Matt Suarez~

      • Cam

        Non-white minority voters consistently vote 70/30 D/R. That’s going to change. What can change is the GOP effectively doing outreach to white voters who are capable of easily making up the difference – for now.

        We also need to keep in mind that the Gillespie campaign was staffed almost exclusively by Never-Trump types who thought they knew better than Trump. Oh well.

  • Paddycakes

    Pretty Democratic Hate Machine………sounds line the name for a failed Goth band. Please document voter sentiment in this election as laegely motivated by hate, or is that your term for rationality?

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  • Peacemaker

    I agree with all of your points, save one. I believe the Gerrymandering issue will still be a determining factor in the congressional races next year. I really hope I am wrong (oh, if Brat is sent packing…happy days for the 7th). But there is no harm in having some form of non-partisan redistricting come 2021.

    The other issue that has been mentioned many times is the divide within the party. I made a joke back in 2009 that I was going to write a book explaining how Palin killed the Elephant Clan…even though it’s not a joke. If the Corey Stewarts of the party don’t “shut up” as Brian has requested more than once, the divide will widen. I think regular republicans, those who want to focus on fiscal issues, either need to form their own party, or find a way to get the Palin/Stewart clan out of the party…somehow.

    I’m only 46 years old, but I have never seen the people in this country so hateful towards each other. The problem is not contained to politics, although I believe that is where it began. If Putin (or anyone else for that matter) had any intent of aiding a divisive shit storm, he must be happy with himself. WE NEED TO CHANGE THIS. Americans are able to overcome anything when we want to. It’s time to stop hating…right now.

    In any event, Brian is correct that in this toxic environment, the only way to win was not to play.

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