When Democrat Doug Jones won the U.S. Senate seat in ruby red Alabama last week, he overturned a generation-long streak of Republicans winning Yellowhammer State Senate seats.
It’s tough for a Republican to lose in Alabama. Roy Moore managed to do it.
The GOP has won every statewide election in the past couple of decades and by increasingly larger margins. The last Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama promptly switched his registration to Republican. He refused to support Moore in this race.
Jones’ victory is reminiscent of Republican Scott Brown taking the Massachusetts seat of deceased Sen. Ted Kennedy in a special election seven years ago. Brown confounded the odds to take a deepest blue state seat. Three years later he lost his bid for re-election.
Moore still hasn’t conceded this race, clinging to some last gasp hope that military ballots and others still outstanding will break his way in sufficient numbers to bring the margin within half a percentage point. Under Alabama law that would trigger an automatic recount.
That’s not going to happen. It’s time for Mr. Moore to saddle up his horse and ride off.
Jones’ victory leaves some important lessons and some useful opportunities for Republicans. They lost this election and with it a pivotal seat in their razor-thin majority in the U.S. Senate. That’s going to make it tougher to get legislation passed and, perhaps more important, judges confirmed.
There is some silver lining to the gloomy cloud of bleak mid-December, however.
First, Senate Republicans won’t have to deal with Roy Moore. That may actually help boost their efforts to increase their majority next year. Had Moore won, the GOP would have been between the dog the proverbial fire hydrant. An ethics investigation would have immediately ensued and the drip-drip of leaks regarding multiple allegations against Moore would’ve have been daily campaign fodder for the Democrats.
They pushed Al Franken out as a precursor to their “clean hands” campaign in 2018. They planned to use Roy Moore as their poster boy. Now they’ll have to run on other issues.
Second, 2018 should be a good year for Senate Republican hopefuls. Of the 33 seats up for election next year, 25 are currently held by Democrats. The Democrats are going to be playing defense.
Of the 25 seats held by Democrats, 10 are in states won by President Trump last November. More significantly, five are in states that he won by more than 20 points. With the right candidates, there’s a potential goldmine.
The key, of course, is to get the right candidates.
Roy Moore clearly didn’t fit that bill. Even before the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct, he was a guy that had managed to twice get booted off the state’s highest court. A candidate like Congressman Mo Brooks, who unfortunately couldn’t get past the GOP primary, would have handily defeated Jones.
What was revealing in last week’s results were not only the votes actually cast, but those that were not. Many Republicans simply stayed home rather than face the prospect of choosing between Roy Moore and Doug Jones. Thousands of others went to the polls to cast write-in votes.
There were nearly 25,000 write-in votes cast in the Alabama Senate election. That’s more than the margin of victory. It means that thousands of Alabama voters took the trouble to go to the polls, knowing there was only one contest on the ballot.
Nevertheless they went with the express intent of making clear that their choice was neither Roy Moore or Doug Jones.
Doug Jones is now waiting to take his seat in the Senate. The two remaining questions are how soon he will get there and how long he will last. His arrival date isn’t imminent. The returns must first be certified by the secretary of state, a process that ordinarily would take until the end of the year.
The reality is that Doug Jones is a lame duck from the day he’s sworn in. The 2017 special election was an aberration and a course correction will be made in 2020.
In the meantime Jones will do his best to appear moderate, but he’ll be a reliable vote for Chuck Schumer on anything that really matters.
The lesson for the GOP is to find candidates who can win general elections. Roy Moore simply couldn’t do that.
Charlie Gerow is the CEO of Quantum Communications which has a Maryland office in Annapolis. He can be reached at [email protected].