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:
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.
And here’s how conservative media is reacting to Jones’s win:
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.
And President Trump weighs in:
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.
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.
|COUNTY||2016 TURNOUT||2017 TURNOUT||DIFFERENCE||2017 MARGIN|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|COUNTY||REGISTERED VOTERS||% REPORTING||MARGIN||BENCHMARK||JONES VS. BENCHMARK|
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.
I think this neatly captures the reaction from most Dems.
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.
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.
Trump went all in on this race. This is a major rebuke.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.