WASHINGTON — Facing a deeply flawed GOP opponent, Democrat Doug Jones pulled off an upset on Tuesday, beating Roy Moore in the conservative, heavily Republican state of Alabama.
It’s a historic win — the last Senate Democrat elected in Alabama was in 1986 — and a few years later, Sen. Richard Shelby switched to the Republican party.
Democrats in the Capitol will greet Jones as a hero.
He is an improbable victor in a state a Democrat never should have won. But Moore had exceptional baggage, with allegations of sexual misconduct with young women only part of his long story.
Jones’ arrival will be shot in the arm for Democrats who will be ushering out, at nearly the same time, Sen. Al Franken D-Minn., who is resigning because of his own sexual misconduct controversies.
A few top line observations:
• Jones raised about twice the money as Moore.
• Jones’ victory cuts the GOP Senate ranks to 51, ironically handing more power to any one Republican who wants to hold out for a deal.
• The Republicans nationalized the race into, some degree, a referendum on Trump.
The Democrats kept it local. National Democrats helped funnel money to the Jones drive but otherwise kept their out-of-state heads down.
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Stephen Bannon, who stumped for Moore, made this into a crusade for Trump.
Bannon, who was one of Trump’s campaign chiefs — and did a stint in the White House as a top strategist, told a rally in Alabama on Monday that there is a “special place in hell for Republicans who should know better.”
“Mitch McConnell and Sen. Shelby, and Condi Rice and all that, Little Bobby Corker, all the establishment out there doesn’t have Trump’s back at all,” Bannon said.
• Why did Jones win if exit polls revealed sexual misconduct allegations against Moore were not a deal killer?
Jones prevailed even though credible allegations of sexual misconduct were hanging over Moore.
Exit polls showed the sexual misconduct accusations first reported by the Washington Post didn’t disqualify Moore as a contender. Less than half of the voters did not believe the allegations.
Only 26 percent said the allegations were “definitely true,” 23 percent said “probably true” and 29 percent probably false to 16 percent definitely false.
In any case, the sexual misconduct stories against Moore were, to 55 percent, not an important factor to the 40 percent who said it was.
Exit polls also showed Moore winning white females.
A likely explanation:
Alabama voters had plenty of reasons to dislike Moore before the story broke about his penchant for pursuing teen girls when he was in his thirties.
Moore is a bigot and a birther.
Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court judge was twice removed from the bench: He would follow the U.S. Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling and not remove a Ten Commandments statue from state property and would not recognize.
Voters had a calcified opinions of Moore before the sex scandal — and Republicans in this deep red state had already distanced themselves from him.
Jones brought a very particular resume to this contest. As a U.S. Attorney, he reopened what had been a cold case: The 1963 bombing of a Birmingham African-American church.
He won convictions of the two living Ku Klux Klan members who were responsible for the bombing that killed four little girls.
• Trump alone could not push Moore into a Senate seat.
On Tuesday, Trump, promoting Moore, tweeted, “The people of Alabama will do the right thing.”
So they did.