This is an election, at least a small federal election. Whoever wins in North Rhine-Westphalia, who then governs the most populous and industrially strongest federal state, also increases their chances in the federal government. That’s the way it was. The power of some chancellors depended on the result there. And maybe Olaf Scholz will soon find out too.

The signs for this experience are accordingly. Not that the top candidates of the larger parties have supra-regional appeal, i.e. Hendrik Wüst for the CDU, Thomas Kutschaty for the SPD. Or Mona Neubaur for the Greens. It doesn’t matter, their names stand for something at the end when it’s chosen. First for victory or defeat, quite simply, but in addition they can become synonyms for rise or, if not fall, then fall.

Big names, big results, the beginning of completely new constellations, in terms of content and personnel – that’s what NRW stands for. And today? When the Social Democrats perform so well in this state election that one has to say that the federal victory was an outlier; if, of all places, there is no victory and possibly no coalition under your leadership in your once strong federal state – then that can seem like a warning sign.

Now the centrifugal forces appear in the traffic lights, those between red, yellow and green, at least tamed, but at the same time enormous, suppressed by the top forces. The exodus of the FDP deputies from the Defense Committee of the Bundestag shows how the situation in the background is, how volatile it can become from one moment to the next. It hasn’t been seen for a long time, really, and then there are also coalition members who are upset about their own chancellor because he doesn’t want to say anything more specific about Ukraine.

Something is brewing here, and that a few hours before the election in North Rhine-Westphalia. The voters get that. Who knows what’s going to happen after that if the trend hasn’t become a comrade, to say the least. Well, if Kutschaty finishes second and can still be first in a NRW traffic light – then there is a deadline. But only that. And a deadline for whom? For the Chancellor!

Olaf Scholz urgently needs to get away from the attitude he is known for in Hamburg. Means: Yes, he can rule; but yes, he needs to communicate and integrate much better. Anyone who gives others the feeling that they are too stupid to understand a clever course ultimately only has themselves to blame if the whole thing falls apart. And to blame if the man from Sauerland, Friedrich Merz, can laugh up his sleeve. Although his CDU is far from convincing.

The importance of the choice for the federal state itself, which is one of the 20 largest industrial nations in the world, recedes a bit too much into the background. The difficult conversion is in full swing, the prospects are not sunny everywhere. Who governs, whether black-green or black-yellow or red-yellow-green, whether the AfD comes in and the left doesn’t: A lot is decided between the Rhine and Ruhr that affect true reality and help determine the future – in the state as well as in the federal government . But we can all experience it together soon.