From his point of view, where Friedrich Merz is, the top is not far away, insofar as he does not personify it himself.

On Monday, the chairman of the conservative party stated: "The CDU is back in first place among the German parties." The course of the Union - and thus his - was "more than just confirmed".

And of course the election in North Rhine-Westphalia also had “a federal political result”, said Merz.

Then he spoke about his main political rival, Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD).

It was "posted all over the place in the west - and that's the result: the worst result in the post-war period for the SPD in NRW." And also for Scholz, as Merz thinks.

Merz himself, on the other hand, can celebrate successes in the countries for the second week in a row this Monday in the Adenauer House.

Peter Carstens

Political correspondent in Berlin

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The man of the day is not himself, but Hendrik Wüst, who within 200 days managed to gain recognition and sympathy in the country and at the same time turned the SPD lead from nine percentage points to a deficit of nine percentage points.

That's kind of like a soccer team turning a 0-3 into a 6-3.

Nevertheless, Wüst cannot go into the exploratory talks that he wants to hold “with all democratic parties” completely calmed down.

In Berlin on Monday they spoke of "a small miracle", as if one could not quite believe one's own success.

Wust has reason to be cautious.

In contrast to football, two big losers – SPD and FDP – could get together in politics in order to trip up the winner Wüst together with the Greens.

The Social Democrats were already inclined towards it when they fell behind the CDU in polls.

The Union was prepared for interpretations on the edge or beyond the numerical reality and had sent Jens Spahn for the first defense, who can sometimes reach out in discussions.

On Sunday, the CDU fought briefly and violently over the interpretation of the election results.

After two hours this battle was also defeated.

While the Social Democrats tried again according to the old recipe to read the secretly inherent government mandate from a shockingly bad result, the Union was able to rely on current figures.

Shortly after the polling stations closed, Spahn recommended his party to open the champagne bottles, because it was the government's job to say that the winner of the election was Hendrik Wüst.

The SPD initially denied this outright and claimed that Wüst had been voted out with the FDP.

Spahn said: "I simply attribute these contortions to the shock of the SPD."

Brandt always helps when the SPD is in a mood of doom

SPD General Secretary Kevin Kühnert derived from outdated surveys a red-green heart desire of the voters in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Then he tried Willy Brandt, who half a century ago had come to power from the second row.

Brandt always helps when the SPD is in a mood of doom, he may have thought.

But not this time.

In order to make the result look a little better than it is, Kühnert and party leader Lars Klingbeil later constantly reminded them that the SPD had 17 percent a year ago and had achieved enormous things since then.

CDU General Secretary Mario Czaja could not resist mentioning later in the Berlin round that the NRW-SPD, apparently brought up by Olaf Scholz, was 33 percent last October.

But that it also landed at a historic low on Sunday, now pulled down by Scholz.

Günther and Wüst as competitors for Merz?

The self-deception was revealed.

Because with almost every new projection, the Social Democrats lost a seat in the Düsseldorf state parliament and with it the prerequisite for a red-green coalition - namely a sufficient number of mandates.

At around 8 p.m., the CDU had already won the interpretation battle with the SPD.

Since then, the federal and state governments have continued what Merz has been doing for weeks: the Greens are praised, the Greens are courted.

Merz initially held back on the evening of the election.

Showing modesty isn't really his forte.

In this discipline, Secretary General Czaja is simply better.

So Merz left it with a tweet.

Of course, with the first successes after a heavy defeat in the Bundestag elections, the questions about a chancellor candidacy begin again.

At the press conference, Merz wanted to know whether Wüst or Daniel Günther could become dangerous competitors.

The Sauerlander currently has a mocking smile for something like that.

Otherwise he left it at one sentence: "I'm happy about everyone who wins elections in the CDU.

That strengthens us all.”

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