President Donald Trump, who endorsed Republican Roy Moore in fiery tweets, blamed Moore’s projected loss in the Alabama Senate race on write-in votes before the candidate himself refused to concede. Others are proclaiming that the dramatic projected victory by Democrat Doug Jones in a historically red state is a defeat for Trump.
Here’s what Trump wrote after the networks and Associated Press declared Jones, a former US Attorney derided by Trump as a Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer puppet, the victor:
“Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!” tweeted the president on the evening of December 12.
The next morning, he wrote, “The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!” He also tweeted, “If last night’s election proved anything, it proved that we need to put up GREAT Republican candidates to increase the razor thin margins in both the House and Senate.”
Pundits noted that Trump broke from some advisers in endorsing Moore, although he joined former strategist Steve Bannon in backing what appears to be the wrong horse; for example, Trump’s daughter was strongly critical of the sexual misconduct allegations against Moore. Those accusations set up an unique dynamic as the president himself has been hammered with sexual misconduct allegations (although not involving those who are underage). Money might also have been a factor in a race this close, as Jones outspent Moore 6-1; however, Alabama is generally a strongly red state.
However, after Trump’s tweet, Roy Moore and his campaign chairman revealed that Moore was not conceding the race because state law triggers a recount if there is .05% margin or less. The margin was .07% with 99 percent in, but Moore’s campaign said military ballots are not all counted. The secretary of state, John Merrill, then told CNN that he couldn’t say how many military ballots there were, in addition to provisional ballots. He said he thought the number of military ballots was probably not enough to swing the results, but they might theoretically reduce the margin enough to trigger an automatic recount. Merrill mentioned that past recounts haven’t changed Alabama election results much. (The Moore campaign still could seek a recount even with a larger margin, just not an automatic one, but would have to pay for it.
Asked by CNN whether a recount could cause any outcome other than Jones winning, Merrill said: “I would find that highly unlikely to occur.”
“I really want to thank you for coming tonight and realize when the vote is this close, it is not over, and we still have to go by the rules by this recount provision,” Moore said at about 10:30 p.m. on December 12. “We also know that God is always in control. Part of the problem with this campaign is we have been painted in an unfavorable and unfaithful light. We’ve been put in a hole if you will.” He then read a Bible verse.
Only hours before, as Alabama voters headed to the polls in a state that hadn’t voted for a Democratic Senator statewide for a quarter of a century, Trump wrote this, focusing on the candidates’ policy positions: “The people of Alabama will do the right thing. Doug Jones is Pro-Abortion, weak on Crime, Military and Illegal Immigration, Bad for Gun Owners and Veterans and against the WALL. Jones is a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet. Roy Moore will always vote with us. VOTE ROY MOORE!” The president won Alabama by a wide margin. The results of the Moore/Jones contest was extremely close:
Note: The results table below is powered by the Decision Desk HQ.
“This campaign has been about dignity and respect,” Jones said in his victory speech, given before Moore refused to concede. “This campaign is about the rule of law. This campaign is about common courtesy and decency.” Jones added that he believed the election results were about finding “common ground.” The election was extremely close, and it went down to the wire, with Democratic turnout pulling Jones over the edge. “Alabama has been at a crossroads,” said Jones. “…we have usually taken the wrong fork. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, you took the right road.”
Moore, a Republican, received Trump’s support despite the series of sexual misconduct accusations against the former chief justice, some involving alleged overtures against teenagers. Moore denied the allegations. The contest would have seemed a sure thing for a Republican because Alabama had not elected a Democrat statewide for half a century. But what seemed like a good bet unraveled after the Washington Post broke the story about Moore’s accusers. Moore, who was already controversial in Alabama for his steadfast defiance on issues like the removal of a Ten Commandments monument, denied the accusations, but they mounted up. He also had controversial stances on homosexuality and other topics.
Jones was buoyed by strong turnout, especially in the African-American community and Democratic bulwarks. It was, to be simple, the “enthusiasm factor” that mattered in a state that Trump had won by a huge margin in 2016. Jones was a former U.S. Attorney who is the son of a steelworker. The projected victory for Jones came after a roller-coaster evening in which the results went down to the wire. Moore was the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, although he was once removed from office because of the Ten Commandments monument issue and, to some degree, took a page from Trump’s own electoral book by running a bombastic, underfunded campaign against the GOP establishment, who preferred his primary opponent, Republican Luther Strange.