Imagine, if you will, the first midterm elections under a new president. He ran on a platform of change from the previous administration, which was of the opposite party, and won over a much more experienced opponent, even though it took a bitter primary that divided his own party to get the chance.

Now, in his first two years as president, he’s managed to pass a piece of major domestic legislation, but it’s controversial legislation that passed on a party-line vote. His approval rating is mired in the 40s, though he’s still well-liked in his own party.

It’s easy to apply this description to the current political environment, and much of it fits; however, it also describes the state of play in 2010, when Barack Obama was facing his first midterms.

There are plenty of differences that are glossed over by the brief outline above: Obama managed to get both the Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank passed, while Donald Trump’s biggest legislative achievement so far has been his tax cut package. Trump has been dogged by the ongoing Russia investigation, which has contributed to his low approval numbers, while Obama’s lack of support largely came from the unpopularity of Obamacare.

At this point in 2010, the economy was still struggling from the effects of the recession; now it’s booming.

But it’s worth re-examining 2010 because much of what happened that year will reverberate in this year’s biggest political stories: the midterms and the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Obama’s low approval ratings eventually resulted in historic gains for the Republican Party, letting them take back the majority in the U.S. House – though not the Senate.

The Republicans’ inability to regain control of the U.S. Senate would eventually lead to then-Majority Leader Harry Reid eliminating the filibuster for all nominations except the Supreme Court in 2013. If Republicans had picked up the two extra Senate seats they needed in 2010 to get the majority, we would probably still have the filibuster for all nominations today.

Historically, Republicans had largely agreed that the filibuster should be preserved; they felt liberated to do away with it in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch only after the Democrats scaled back its use. Reid was fully supported in this at the time by independent Angus King, while Republican Susan Collins opposed modifying the filibuster.

If Collins had had her way five years ago, King and the Senate Democrats, with whom he caucuses, would probably have much more influence over Trump’s Supreme Court picks today. By supporting this change, King helped to lead the Senate down the path that it finds itself in today.

While the Republican Party did very well indeed in the midterms nationally eight years ago, they could have done even better had they avoided a few self-inflicted wounds. They lost the chance to pick up Senate seats in several states that could have given them the majority thanks to weak challengers winning the primary – a mistake they would repeat in 2012, giving Harry Reid the opening he needed on the filibuster. Democrats would be better positioned to challenge Trump’s nominations today if they had actually lost the majority in the Senate in either 2010 or in 2012. They were, in effect, hoist on their own petard, as their successes got the better of them.

This lesson still rings true for Republicans today: If they go too far, too fast, with either their tactics or their policy, they may suffer for it later, even if they are initially successful. In politics, it’s easy to play the short term for massive gains; it’s much harder to play the long game and consider the future when circumstances change.

In Maine, there are several lessons to be drawn today from the 2010 midterms.

The election of Paul LePage as governor might have been a surprise to many, but he led in nearly every public poll during the general election. Regardless of what happened nationally in 2016, if the polls paint a clear picture of Maine’s gubernatorial race this year, they shouldn’t be dismissed.

Although Maine was certainly caught up in the Republican wave in 2010, it wasn’t entirely overwhelmed: Mike Michaud easily won re-election in the 2nd District, and LePage only narrowly won. Mainers are independent-minded, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if our results again differed from the national ones in a significant way. Democrats may have good reasons to be optimistic about the midterms, but they can’t take anything for granted – especially in a state like Maine.

Jim Fossel, a conservative activist from Gardiner, worked for Sen. Susan Collins. He can be contacted at:

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Twitter: @jimfossel