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What Happened in Alabama?

It was a narrow win for Doug Jones in Alabama, but it was a win—in a seat where Jeff Sessions had won with 97.5% of the vote in 2014. How could a Republican possibly lose an election in Alabama? It’s as Republican now as it was Democratic a century ago. So the question now is, what happened?

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We invite you to tell us what you think, but I’ll kick it off with a few comments of my own.

1) Trump waffled. For as much as Trump likes to portray himself as strong and steadfast, he obviously isn’t. He has been all over the map in his life, being very pro-choice not that many years ago, to realizing the groups who could give him power, and how to pander to them.

But this isn’t about ideas. It’s about power. Early in the Alabama primary, it appeared that Mo Brooks would be the easy winner. He was “Trump’s man.” The only risk was that the incumbent, Luther Strange may win, if the ultra-conservative vote were split between Brooks and Roy Moore. Incongruously, Trump flipped from Brooks to Mitch McConnell’s choice—Luther Strange, who ended up winning. But after the primary, when it was a run-off between Strange and Moore, Trump quietly supported Moore, by giving him access to his email list for contributions. Then, suddenly, just before the run-off vote, Trump took his list back and said he was supporting “Big Luther.”

But wait, there’s more! Before the runoff, Trump flipped yet again, this time musing out-loud—in front of Strange supporters that he probably made a mistake supporting Strange. That’s because in TrumpWorld, ideas and ideals mean nothing. It’s all about winning, regardless of outcome. And that back-handed “support” may have lost the run-off for Strange.

Trump was relatively quiet after that, although once the accusations against Moore mounted, Trump flipped again, saying “if” the accusations were true, Moore should pull out of the race. But the trouble is, by Alabama law, Moore couldn’t “pull out.” His name would appear on the ballot, regardless. After that, increasingly Trump supported Roy Moore, not really because Roy Moore was a good candidate, but rather, because Trump didn’t want to lose a seat to the Democrats. And while Trump’s support helped, it would have been better if he had actually found things to praise about Moore.

And now, here we are, waiting to hear how Trump will spin his multiple failures in this campaign season. Somehow, he will try to claim victory. Or he may once again try to undermine faith in our electoral system.

2) Trump did tweet about the election already. Once again, he’s twisting reality. In his “congratulatory” tweet to Jones, he suggested that write-in votes were to blame for Moore’s loss. But there were 2.5% write-ins in the last run for this seat. This time, just a paltry 1.5%. Sorry, Donald J., that dog don’t hunt.

3) While Trump was full-throated pro-Moore at the end, where was Jeff Sessions? Remember that Sessions had won this same seat with 97.5% of the vote just three years ago. Yet he was AWOL in this year’s campaign. That had to send a message to Republican voters. No one seems to be talking about Sessions. Why not?

4) As has been suggested here and elsewhere before, the problem for Roy Moore was not the decades-old accusations. Most of them were not crimes, and those which were, were long past the statute of limitations. No, Moore’s problem was lying about it all. He did admit to “dating” teens when he was in his 30s. Somehow, he thought it was a good idea to admit that the girls were so young that he felt that he had to ask their mamas’ permission. And we’re supposed to believe that he didn’t touch the young girls he “dated”? Seriously?

5) Probably the greatest mistake that Moore made was a sort of Hillaryism. In the last few weeks, he just disappeared. He didn’t campaign where he was needed. In fact, he just didn’t show up. That’s how Hillary lost Pennsylvania, Michigan, and especially, Wisconsin. At a time when people were waffling about support for Moore, there was a report that he may have took his son to Pennsylvania to see a football game. It wasn’t confirmed, and the voters just didn’t deserve to know. So the voters felt taken for granted, and maybe felt that he was hiding because he couldn’t honestly reply to the former junior-high-school girls who said he took advantage of them.

6) Jones wasn’t a great candidate. When he was chosen, he was considered a sacrificial lamb. Remember that the Democrats didn’t even bother to field a candidate to run for this seat last time. If they had thought they had a chance, they would have found an anti-abortion candidate, because more than anything else, the fact that Jones wasn’t adamantly anti-abortion worked against him.

7) Establishment Republicans are secretly rejoicing. This was a humiliating defeat for Steve Bannon and Donald Trump. Bannon expected Moore to be the first domino in his battle to tear down incumbent Republicans. Oops. Instead, he helped elect a Democrat.

8) Probably the saddest point of this whole episode is that almost every Republican in Alabama, in surveys, said they did not believe the women/girls who reported their experiences with a younger Roy Moore. Once again, truth loses. If Moore had said, shucks yeah, that was before I found Jesus, he would have benefited from the accusations. If he had simply apologized to them, he would have made Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. Instead, he forced his supporters to live a lie, and that is just not fair to the people who believed in him.

9) I don’t know much about the new senator-elect, Jones. Nobody does. His claim to history will be that he was just “not Roy Moore.” That’s sad for many reasons. And characteristically, Moore has refused to concede reality.

10) And finally, (I like to round out a full ten), this election cast doubts on Fox News and it’s polling. Yes, they were the only poll to say Jones would win, but the problem was in the way they said it. They claimed he’d win a landslide of ten percent. There’s no way you can justify that. It is three times the error rate expected. The only explanation was that they published that Jones was far ahead just to scare Moore supporters to the polls. That should be investigated.

OK. Those are my observations and musings. What are yours?

Goethe Behr :Goethe Behr is a Contributing Editor and Moderator at Election Central. He started out posting during the 2008 election, became more active during 2012, and very active in 2016. He has been a political junkie since the 1950s and enjoys adding a historical perspective.

View Comments (20)

  • On point 10, I don't think it reflects that badly on Fox News polling. Yes, having Jones up 10 is high, but they basically pegged his vote share at 50%. They just had Moore down at 40% which was about 8-9 points too low. But only Fox and the WaPo had Jones winning at all in recent days:

    https://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2017/senate/al/alabama_senate_special_election_moore_vs_jones-6271.html

    I'd say Fox over-sampled Democrats, maybe based on enthusiasm levels, but at least they picked the right winner.

    Emerson released their last poll showing Moore up 9 points with Jones only getting 44%. That's actually much worse in terms of how far off they were compared to Fox polling.

    • I disagree. This election was like Trump's. In order for Jones to win, every single detail had to fall in his favor. To predict a LANDSLIDE was not just wrong, but dubious, disingenuous, and dangerous to Democracy.

      For Emerson to predict a landslide for Moore was reasonable and POSSIBLE, considering that Jeff Sessions got 97.5% of the vote in the last election for this seat. Seriously, 97.5%.

      And, by the way, the WaPo poll was only 3% in Jones' favor, and was taken the previous month, when the sex scandal was much stronger, and also before the Trump full-endorsement of Moore.

  • And about point 2. . .

    As anticipated, Trump is claiming he was right, saying he supported Strange, whom he stabbed in the back twice:

    From Politico:
    "Trump tried to claim Wednesday morning that he had been right all along
    about the race, because he had initially endorsed Luther Strange, who
    ultimately lost to Moore, in the Alabama primary."

    Yep. This he said about the guy he said was a "mistake" just before voting in the runoff.

  • From New Jersey to Virginia to Alabama voters and moderate Republicans used the polls to challenge Trump and his ever changing flip/flop style of politics. Moore was the second losing Alabama candidate endorsed by Trump. For the first time in 25 years Alabama has elected a Democratic Senator. In a state famously hostile to African-American voters, this group came out and were instrumental in making Jones the winner. This shrinks the GOP senate majority to 51.

    In the 2018 November midterm elections, the two Republican seats in Arizona and Nevada seem vulnerable to a Democratic win. Therefore, Trump and company are busy trying to get their “stacked for the rich” budget passed before the fiscal year is over.

          • But you just said that the rich will get inordinate benefit.

            I also have a real concern about this racket about trying to boost the economy. We've been on a record-breaking path of steady growth. If it ain't broke. . .

            The rich and powerful want maximum growth, because it causes small and medium business to overextend itself, and with overheated growth, a crash is inevitable. AND with the crash, small and medium business is destroyed, and the rich and powerful pick up the pieces at a huge discount.

            Our problem has not been the growth rate. It's that we have no way of getting a fair share of the profits into the pockets of the employees who are creating those profits.

          • Oh, wow, do I disagree. "Getting a fair share into the pockets of the employees" sounds like a page out of the socialist doctrine to me. Which is what you must mean. 100% different, in my book, than what the GOP believes.

            Do the employees risk losing everything in a small or medium business? Of course they don't. The employees get a paycheck. The employees get health insurance and other benefits. Of course the benefits depend upon the size of the company.

            Yes, the economy will (like a rubber band) burst if the economy grows to fast. However, growth can be measured so that rubber band doesn't snap.

            Yes, too many of the rich and powerful are greedy. Bush, for example, rigged the stock market. The bubble burst. We all know what happened.

            I'd said, in a reply to Berkley, that the rich got richer under Obama. They'll always get rich no matter who is in the WH. Berkeley had said Trump was rewarding the wealthy. Obama made more millionaires and the rich got richer.

          • In our present state of affairs, Congress is allowing a president to control their vote and conscience. Trump, in particular, is mentally trapped in a fallacious mindset that says "if we cut rates for the rich than everyone else will benefit". This is a false position. Of the past two decades, when Republican were in control, it has been proven how empty and worthless this claim actually is.

            Lest we forget in 2013, President Obama inherited from the previous Republican president a bankrupt economy that was in freefall. General Motors was at death's door and heading for the graveyard were Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG and Citibank to name a few. The Obama administration helped these companies with government loans to get back on their feet with government loans. Incidentally, all these loans have been repaid.

            The Obama administration first full year in which Obama’s economic policies really took hold was 2013. Most of the Bush tax breaks on the rich ended in 2013. And in 2014, new taxes on the wealthy and corporations kicked in to help 16 million Americans gain health insurance. The result was a job market like we haven’t seen since the’90s. As they did in 1993, Republicans claimed that asking the rich to pay a bit more would destroy the economy. So, of course, the opposite happened. It’s almost as if some tax hikes on the wealthy are good for the economy

          • I'm not going to disagree. I'm sure you'll just disagree. Yes, Obama was dealt a bad hand. But he wanted "the job." So it was up to him to fix the situation.

            I have zero sympathy for him. As I said he wanted the job.

            Bush did rig the stock market. Why? So his friends could get richer.

            I do have to wonder why many of my friends lost their businesses due to Obama's massive regulations. Those that didn't lose their businesses, that I know, sold them as they couldn't make enough profit. Again due to the unreasonable regulations.

  • Nothing happened in Alabama. Yup, CNN, will crow but who cares. Maybe this will get the GOP establishment off their butts to do something. They've done jack to pass Trump's agenda. They are crying as much as CNN about Trump's victory.

    Gothe you must remember things a lot different than I do. Trump endorsed Strange. Period. Alabama chose Moore. Their right. Period. Trump said "I need Moore's vote." He didn't endorse Moore.

    Bottom line: Moore, not Trump, lost the election.

    • So--you're saying someone must use the word "endorse" in order for it to be an endorsement?? Does that mean someone has to say, "I'm lying" for it to be a lie??

      Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word, endorse, to mean, "to approve openly; especially : to express support or approval of publicly and definitely."

      Trump called Moore, personally, Dec. 4, to praise him and said, "go get 'em!"

      Moore certainly considered it an endorsement:

      "I am honored to receive the support and ENDORSEMENT of President Donald Trump," Moore said in a statement. Trump didn't "correct" that statement.

      in November, Trump had absolved Moore, saying about the charges, "he denies it." Well, duh. Isn't that the same as, "I believe him."

      He spoke several times supporting Moore. He gave a campaign speech in the Alabama media market. He even recorded a robocall for Moore." That included, "we need Roy Moore," and,"Get out and vote for Roy Moore."

      Trump's whole life is about working for the greater power and glory of Donald J. Trump. And if there is anything negative, he blames everyone but himself. When it was clear that Strange was losing--even before the election--Trump said he made a mistake to support Strange. And now, Trump's saying Strange was his boy, and is trashing Moore--even before Moore concedes--and is asking for a recount.

      It's the same as all the people who have left the campaign or administration. Trump has trashed them, saying they had no real authority, little more than janitors. One bus is not enough for Trump to throw people under. It's mre like throwing them under the caravan.

      • I just wrote a nice long reply and hit the wrong key. It's gone into cyberspace. Geez. Dang I'd put together some nice thoughts. Gone.

        Anyway, I'm not going to disagree. You feel one way. I think differently about Trump. No problem.

        I'm sure we agree on the basic GOP principles.

        We'll never know but I bet Strange would have won. I believe Mo was a Tea Party candidate. The Tea Party isn't my cup of Tea. Too far to the right. My sister likes the Tea Party. Whoopi.

        I think a lot of things we hear are made up. Fake news. Unless it comes right from Trump's mouth I don't believe it.

          • We are completely different. The so called "source" is code for Fake News. CNN is loaded with fake news. Disgusting.

            Are you a Bennie Sanders leftist?

          • No. I am just disgusted with Trump's anger and hatred for anyone who stands in the way of everything the crybaby wants. An effective negotiator shows respect for his or her opponent. Compare his demeanor with Reagan's.

            Trump doesn't respect anything or anyone (although he will display fake respect for those whom he thinks he can use).

          • I, on the other hand, am disgusted with the GOP establishment's behavior. Yes, Trump could have gone along with the "corrupt good old boys." But that isn't why he was elected.

            How many times have we heard politicians say they are going to do this and that but when they get elected they do whatever the lobbiest want. The people aren't important. Big money gets their way.

            The elected blow hards feed us a line and we buy it. Usually they say " I'm the head of a committee and I'll fight for you." So the new politician doesn't stand a chance.

            Trump isn't young but finally someone is doing something for the people. Others may not like it but...