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Updated 6:01 PM |

What Went Down In The Alabama Senate Election Filed under Special Elections

By
Micah Cohen 11:23 PM Jones Won

That’s a wrap on our live blog, folks. Alabama is blue. Weird, huh?

Jones gave a victory speech. But, the Moore campaign is apparently not conceding this race, hoping that when military, provisional and write-in ballots are counted, the vote will be within 0.5 percentage points, triggering an automatic statewide recount. At this point, an automatic recount seems highly unlikely (barring something truly unforeseen, of course). The Moore campaign could pay for a recount itself, however.

We’ll have a lot more analysis of this race and all its implications, but in the meantime, if you’re curious how Moore lost and Jones won, start at the bottom of this live blog and scroll up.

As usual, I asked the FiveThirtyEight live blog team to give me their main headline coming out of this race. (And as usual, I realized many brilliant FiveThirtyEight-ers don’t understand how headlines work.) [Ed. note: Hey man, screw you.]

Nate: MOORE PROBLEMS

Julia: We’ve Dodged the Expulsion Bullet.

Perry: Alabama Turns Blue, Rather Than Elect Accused Child Molester

Clare: Democrat Wins Alabama; Hell Freezes Over

Anna: Alabama Judged Roy Moore

Dan: I didn’t think a state could move so much from turnout swings.

Harry: #metoo 1, Roy Moore 0

Meena: A Democrat Has Won In Deep-Red Alabama.

Meghan (a former Texan): Texas Is Next! LOL.

Colleen: Sleepy Editors Thank Alabama For Calling The Race Before Midnight

Sara: Black Voters Turned Out For Jones

Chad: Democrats May Have A Big-Tent Problem Before Long

Or, check out the headline proposals from friend-of-the-site Ariel Edwards-Levy in this thread:

Perry Bacon Jr. 11:21 PM Jones Will Probably Be A Party-Line Democratic Vote On Most Issues

With only 51 Republican senators, passing any legislation and getting nominations confirmed now gets even harder for Republicans. Three Republican senators combined to kill the Obamacare repeal. When Jones is seated, the GOP has to get all but one of its members behind any initiative it wants to pass.

One of the important features of the Jones-Moore campaign is that even though the Democrat was running in a heavily Republican state, he was not forced to take any stands that really differ from Democratic orthodoxy. He made no specific commitments to back any part of Trump’s agenda. He is likely to be the 49th “no” vote on most Trump initiatives.

And Jones will have this seat until Nov. 2020, so he will not face much immediate electoral pressure. He can, at least for a bit, be more liberal on issues than senators like West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, who is up for election this coming November.

Clare Malone 11:17 PM

And here’s how conservative media is reacting to Jones’s win:

Drudge

Breitbart

Fox News

Daily Caller

Perry Bacon Jr. 11:11 PM Doug Jones Can’t Stop The GOP Tax Bill By Himself

The Alabama Secretary of State’s office has said that the certification process of the electoral results likely will not be completed until at least Dec. 26, meaning that Jones would not be seated as a senator until that date or later, depending on when the Senate is in session. So for the upcoming government funding bill (current funding expires on Dec. 22), incumbent Republican Sen. Luther Strange is likely to be voting. Similarly, Republicans were already planning to try to push their tax bill through before Christmas. (Different versions passed in the House and Senate and those must be reconciled.) So congressional Republicans will be even more determined to finish the tax legislation quickly, before Jones comes to Capitol Hill.

That said, let’s say Republicans can’t move that quickly. Jones still can’t kill the bill himself. The senator-elect has suggested he would join the 48 Democrats and Tennessee Republican Bob Corker in opposing the legislation. But Republicans would still have 50 members who back it, with Vice President Mike Pence to break the tie.

Here’s the problem for Republicans. Once Jones arrives in the Senate, they have no margin for error. Any single Republican senator can tank the bill. So that gives members leverage. In particular, watch for Maine Sen. Susan Collins, who wants two pieces of legislation to help improve Obamacare to be adopted in exchange for her tax reform vote, since the tax provision includes a repeal of the individual mandate in Obamacare. If Republicans must have Collins’ vote to pass tax reform, she could have huge sway in moving the bill to her preferences.

Micah Cohen 11:10 PM

And President Trump weighs in:

Harry Enten 11:00 PM Automated Polls Had A Bad Night

Before the election, we noted that the non-live interviewer polls (i.e. online and robo-polls) were pretty consistent in having Moore ahead. These polls need to do a lot of weighting because they can’t reach every voter in the state.

Well, those polls were pretty far off. In part, that’s likely because many of them weighted very heavily toward past votes. In ruby-red Alabama, that means adjusting things toward the GOP. It’s pretty clear now that that may have been a mistake. The electorate was not pro-Trump. His net approval rating was just +1 percentage points in the exit poll, which is far less than a lot of other polls suggested it would be.

And no, it’s not just that the race shifted toward Jones in the final moments. The exit polls suggest, if anything, that those who decided late went for Moore.

Aaron Bycoffe 10:57 PM

Jones’s biggest margins tonight came in the counties where turnout was closest to last year’s presidential election. Here’s how turnout compared to 2016 across Alabama.

How turnout compares against 2016

Turnout in the 2016 presidential election and the 2017 special Senate election in Alabama

COUNTY 2016 TURNOUT 2017 TURNOUT DIFFERENCE 2017 MARGIN
Macon 50% 38% -12 D+76.6
Dallas 58% 45% -13 D+49.9
Greene 67% 54% -13 D+75.5
Perry 62% 49% -13 D+58.4
Madison 62% 45% -17 D+16.8
Lowndes 64% 47% -17 D+58.4
Montgomery 62% 44% -18 D+45.7
Bullock 63% 45% -18 D+60.9
Hale 65% 46% -18 D+39.2
Wilcox 66% 47% -19 D+53.8
Sumter 63% 44% -19 D+62.2
Marengo 67% 46% -21 D+23.0
Butler 63% 42% -21 D+2.8
Pike 58% 38% -21 R+2.0
Baldwin 64% 42% -22 R+26.2
Monroe 63% 41% -22 R+0.5
Tuscaloosa 62% 41% -22 D+16.3
Barbour 61% 38% -23 D+15.3
Washington 62% 39% -23 R+29.4
Conecuh 63% 40% -23 D+10.9
Coosa 65% 41% -23 R+13.7
Clarke 67% 44% -23 D+4.3
Pickens 68% 44% -24 D+1.6
Tallapoosa 64% 40% -24 R+21.7
Russell 53% 29% -24 D+30.1
Henry 63% 39% -24 R+22.6
Lee 57% 33% -24 D+16.8
Escambia 61% 35% -25 R+15.4
Coffee 62% 36% -25 R+36.2
Crenshaw 63% 38% -25 R+27.6
Shelby 71% 46% -25 R+14.0
Dale 59% 35% -25 R+28.7
Talladega 62% 37% -25 D+1.4
Etowah 64% 39% -25 R+19.3
Chambers 58% 32% -25 D+12.3
Mobile 60% 35% -25 D+16.2
Winston 62% 36% -26 R+66.6
Choctaw 66% 40% -26 D+7.6
Morgan 66% 40% -26 R+26.9
Colbert 65% 38% -27 R+6.1
Bibb 65% 38% -27 R+38.8
Autauga 65% 38% -27 R+21.5
Houston 61% 34% -27 R+23.5
Lawrence 63% 35% -27 R+27.2
St. Clair 65% 38% -27 R+42.9
Lauderdale 65% 38% -28 R+12.4
Jefferson 66% 38% -28 D+40.3
Jackson 57% 29% -28 R+37.5
Geneva 65% 38% -28 R+60.8
Elmore 69% 41% -28 R+29.8
Covington 63% 35% -28 R+52.4
Clay 65% 37% -28 R+44.3
Walker 63% 35% -28 R+46.1
Calhoun 64% 36% -28 R+10.7
Limestone 69% 41% -28 R+19.2
Chilton 64% 35% -29 R+52.6
DeKalb 63% 34% -29 R+47.1
Marshall 63% 34% -29 R+44.8
Lamar 64% 34% -29 R+56.6
Fayette 68% 38% -29 R+50.2
Franklin 63% 33% -30 R+40.5
Blount 68% 37% -30 R+64.9
Cullman 68% 38% -30 R+59.0
Randolph 60% 30% -31 R+31.1
Marion 64% 33% -31 R+59.5
Cleburne 61% 29% -31 R+60.6
Cherokee 63% 17% -46 R+40.4

2017 turnout as of 10:55 p.m.

Source: Alabama secretary of state

Nate Silver 10:52 PM

With Jones winning by less than the write-in margin, one wonders whether there’s a Trump tweetstorm soon to brew against Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, who said he couldn’t vote for Moore and wrote in another candidate instead.

Perry Bacon Jr. 10:50 PM

Kind of befitting the Jones coalition, the crowd of Jones supporters was about one quarter black women in hats and about a quarter young hipsters, with a lot of older whites also in attendance.

Perry Bacon Jr. 10:49 PM

I’ve been to a lot of celebrations for winning candidates. But this one (I’m at the Jones party in Birmingham) is something. Jones supporters were dancing in celebration here at the Birmingham Sheraton after the screen in the ballroom showed CNN calling the race for him. They played  “Happy” by Pharrell Williams.

Nate Silver 10:47 PM

I’m going to want to do some more thinking about whether the GOP would have been even worse off if Moore had won. And I guess my initial instinct — after seeing this play out in practice instead of thinking about it in the abstract — is “maybe not.”

But it depends to a large extent on what the GOP does. If they use this as a wake-up call, perhaps they can make a course correction before 2018 (or at least before 2020) that would help them in the end. It’s hard to make that course correction when you still have President Trump in office, however.

Ritchie King 10:46 PM A High Share Of Write-in Votes Tonight

After reports surfaced in early November that Moore had inappropriate contact with teenage girls, Luther Strange — Moore’s rival in the GOP primary — was encouraged to run as a write-in candidate by Lisa Murkowski (who won her own write-in campaign in Alaska). Strange did not pursue any such campaign, but the specter of a write-in vote splitting the Republican ballot was raised again this past weekend by Alabama senator Richard Shelby, who encouraged Alabama voters to write in the name of a Republican other than Moore (though he did not mention Strange specifically).

So has the write-in vote been a factor? It’s certainly been high by historical standards. Of all Alabama senate races since 1990, only the 2014 race, in which Jeff Sessions ran uncontested, saw a higher share of write-in votes.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Jones has a margin of 0.7 points over Moore, and the share of write-in votes is more than double that, at around 1.7 percent. Who were people writing in? If that difference holds, we’ll know in due time. In 2016, the Alabama state legislature passed a law requiring the write-in votes to be tallied if the share of write-ins exceeds the margin between the first- and second-place candidates — exactly the situation we’re in now.

David Wasserman 10:46 PM

No doubt about it: Major, metro Alabama and the Black Belt came through for Jones. Voters in rural white counties didn’t move much towards Jones, but they utterly failed to turn out for Moore.

Harry Enten 10:41 PM

It’s pretty clear now that the vote margin is going to be tight. Jones probably wins by between 1 and 2 percentage points. Never let anyone tell you that your vote doesn’t count.

Nate Silver 10:40 PM

Democratic chances of winning the Senate are now up to 48 percent at PredictIt — up from 32 percent 24 hours ago. To do some quick extrapolation, they’d probably have fallen to about 25 percent if Jones had lost. So this one race makes the difference between the Senate battle being a toss-up and Democrats having only about a 1-in-4 shot, according to betting markets.

Clare Malone 10:40 PM

And now comes the Republican Party freakout? As I wrote earlier, reports are coming out from the Bannon side of things to say that he’ll blame McConnell’s lack of enthusiasm for Moore’s loss. Trump will certainly not be happy with this result, given how much he values wins. Republicans will surely take up the line that Moore was just too extreme a case to call him a harbinger of things to come but … will there be behind-the-scenes freakouts from Republicans? Maybe. For one thing, we saw early exit polls showing Trump with lower approval ratings than one might expect from a deep-red state like Alabama, and that might worry strategists. But acolytes of the Bannon’s wham-bam style might take pause over the Alabama results. We’ll see how things start to shake out tonight and into tomorrow.

How Jones is performing against benchmarks

As of 10:40 p.m.

COUNTY REGISTERED VOTERS % REPORTING MARGIN BENCHMARK JONES VS. BENCHMARK
Jefferson 463,717 85% D+40.3 D+32.3 +8.0
Mobile 286,761 85% D+15.1 D+12.4 +2.7
Madison 253,825 90% D+16.9 D+9.5 +7.4
Montgomery 151,376 100% D+45.7 D+49.5 -3.8
Baldwin 146,682 94% R+25.3 R+27.6 +2.3
Shelby 143,360 63% R+18.0 R+22.4 +4.4
Tuscaloosa 132,157 100% D+16.3 D+8.4 +7.9
Lee 104,889 100% D+16.8 D+1.6 +15.2
Morgan 76,419 100% R+26.9 R+21.5 -5.4
Calhoun 73,754 100% R+10.7 R+10.7 +0.0
Houston 70,801 100% R+23.5 R+22.0 -1.5
Etowah 69,627 100% R+19.3 R+14.0 -5.3
Lauderdale 61,487 100% R+12.4 R+13.6 +1.2
Limestone 59,341 100% R+19.2 R+20.2 +1.0
St. Clair 59,263 100% R+42.9 R+40.1 -2.8
Marshall 56,764 100% R+44.8 R+36.3 -8.5
Cullman 56,080 100% R+59.0 R+47.9 -11.1
Elmore 54,352 100% R+29.8 R+21.9 -7.9
Talladega 53,142 100% D+1.4 D+1.9 -0.5
Walker 46,862 100% R+46.1 R+33.2 -12.9
DeKalb 40,502 100% R+47.1 R+36.6 -10.5
Colbert 39,217 100% R+6.1 R+6.4 +0.3
Autauga 38,162 100% R+21.5 R+18.6 -2.9
Blount 37,951 100% R+64.9 R+51.5 -13.4
Jackson 36,714 100% R+37.5 R+26.7 -10.8
Russell 36,616 100% D+30.1 D+24.6 +5.5
Coffee 32,805 100% R+36.2 R+30.4 -5.8
Dale 31,463 100% R+28.7 R+25.5 -3.2
Dallas 31,291 100% D+49.9 D+56.1 -6.2
Tallapoosa 29,768 100% R+21.7 R+12.1 -9.6
Chilton 28,202 100% R+52.6 R+38.2 -14.4
Covington 25,705 100% R+52.4 R+38.8 -13.6
Escambia 24,627 100% R+15.4 R+9.0 -6.4
Lawrence 23,695 100% R+27.2 R+14.8 -12.4
Chambers 23,511 100% D+12.3 D+9.2 +3.1
Pike 21,940 100% R+2.0 D+5.7 -7.7
Marion 20,268 100% R+59.5 R+46.3 -13.2
Clarke 19,061 100% D+4.3 D+10.8 -6.5
Geneva 18,060 100% R+60.8 R+49.2 -11.6
Franklin 18,018 100% R+40.5 R+28.9 -11.6
Macon 17,407 100% D+76.6 D+85.4 -8.8
Cherokee 17,074 42% R+40.4 R+35.3 -5.1
Barbour 16,747 100% D+15.3 D+19.9 -4.6
Randolph 16,673 96% R+31.1 R+25.1 -6.0
Monroe 16,099 100% R+0.5 D+8.3 -8.8
Marengo 16,039 100% D+23.0 D+26.4 -3.4
Winston 15,826 100% R+66.6 R+53.7 -12.9
Pickens 13,731 100% D+1.6 D+9.0 -7.4
Bibb 13,663 100% R+38.8 R+29.1 -9.7
Butler 13,488 100% D+2.8 D+12.7 -9.9
Washington 13,126 100% R+29.4 R+16.1 -13.3
Henry 12,628 100% R+22.6 R+16.3 -6.3
Fayette 12,201 100% R+50.2 R+33.8 -16.4
Hale 12,153 100% D+39.2 D+42.8 -3.6
Lamar 10,643 100% R+56.6 R+38.2 -18.4
Choctaw 10,573 100% D+7.6 D+11.4 -3.8
Cleburne 10,487 100% R+60.6 R+49.4 -11.2
Conecuh 10,280 100% D+10.9 D+20.7 -9.8
Lowndes 10,171 100% D+58.4 D+67.7 -9.3
Sumter 9,922 100% D+62.2 D+69.9 -7.7
Crenshaw 9,890 100% R+27.6 R+15.0 -12.6
Clay 9,797 100% R+44.3 R+28.6 -15.7
Wilcox 9,301 100% D+53.8 D+63.5 -9.7
Perry 8,160 100% D+58.4 D+65.8 -7.4
Coosa 7,997 100% R+13.7 R+1.2 -12.5
Bullock 7,422 100% D+60.9 D+69.7 -8.8
Greene 7,079 100% D+75.5 D+84.1 -8.6

Registered voters as of November 2017

Source: Decision Desk HQ

Julia Azari 10:38 PM

As the resident mandates person, I’ll point out once again that surprise and novelty contribute to how significant an election result seems. There are a lot of factors at work — campaigning and turnout, Moore’s slipping support, and, of course, Trump’s long shadow. His recent endorsement of Moore and the fact that the president has also been accused of sexual misconduct helps form a coherent narrative, whether it’s the right one or not. I think it’s hard to say that this election was a referendum on the president. But it’s entirely possible that it’ll be interpreted that way in the months to come.

Daniel Levitt 10:37 PM

I think this neatly captures the reaction from most Dems.

Twitter 10:37 PM

Harry Enten 10:36 PM

To expound on my last few points, yes, a normal Republican likely wins this race. That said, the fact that Trump is so unpopular definitely played a role. It put Jones in a position to take advantage of Moore’s weak candidacy.

Nate Silver 10:35 PM A Boon For Democratic Recruiting

One fairly obvious after-effect is that Democratic candidate recruiting — which has already been pretty good — could now go totally bonkers. Democrats, with some justification, are going to think they can compete everywhere and will always have a puncher’s chance if the GOP nominates a bad candidate. Lots of credible Democratic candidates, such as Phil Bredesen in Tennessee, are going to run in lots of red states and districts. Of course, few candidates are going to be as bad as Roy Moore. But then again, not all those red states and districts are going to be quite as red as Alabama.

Harry Enten 10:33 PM

Trump went all in on this race. This is a major rebuke.

Dan Hopkins 10:32 PM

If we are just re-running history, and Doug Jones is today’s Scott Brown, maybe down the road he will be contesting a Senate seat in Mississippi.

Harry Enten 10:31 PM

The Senate is now definitely in play in 2018. If Democrats can hold onto their seats, they’d only need to win Arizona and Nevada, where they are at least slight favorites at this point, in order to take control.

Harry Enten 10:29 PM

The Washington Post ruled this race. Not only did their reporting turn this race around, but their poll had Jones up 3 percentage points. That was by far one of the most accurate polls.

Dan Hopkins 10:29 PM

The way I figure, there are 435 House seats versus 100 Senate seats. So a Senate seat begins with 4.35 times the value of a House seat. A party typically holds a Senate seat for six years, raising their value to 13 House seats. This seat, by contrast, is worth half that.

David Wasserman 10:28 PM

Damning statement from Senate Leadership Fund CEO Steven Law: “This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running. Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco.”

Nate Silver 10:28 PM In Alabama, A Parallel To Massachusetts

With Jones now having been declared the winner by the AP, it’s hard not to see some parallels between his prospective win in Alabama and the Republican Scott Brown’s win in Massachusetts in January 2010, which occurred at similar points in the respective presidencies of Trump and Barack Obama.

Yes, there are a lot of differences: Most notably that Martha Coakley — Brown’s opponent in Massachusetts — was not accused of being a child molester, for example.

But both wins were pretty narrow. And despite extenuating circumstances, neither would probably have occurred if the political winds weren’t blowing strongly — toward Republicans in 2010 and toward Democrats in 2017.

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