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Mark Alexander / Dec. 13, 2017

Jones Wins, Democrats Lose

Roy Moore was narrowly defeated by Doug Jones — but Democrats take a big hit.

Roy Moore narrowly lost his bid for the Senate Tuesday, a gain of one for Democrats in the Senate but a major political loss for Democrats’ 2018 campaign strategy.

A month ago, The Washington Post published a politically timed hit piece detailing allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore — claims that are almost 40 years old. Clearly, the Post sat on the allegations until after Moore won the primary so as to do maximum damage to the GOP and President Donald Trump. Of course, the Post has a gloating editorial this morning.

Moore’s opponent, Doug Jones, was a Democrat placeholder in a state Trump won in 2016 by almost 28 percentage points. He was destined for defeat until the Post bushwhacked Moore, leaving no time to disprove any of the allegations.

Moore’s unconvincing denials — the “creep factor” — and the fact Trump had supported his Republican primary opponent, Luther Strange (only in the last week promoting Moore’s election as a Republican placeholder), combined with Al Franken’s pending resignation over less serious charges, sank Moore’s campaign.

Republican endorsements for Moore quickly vanished, and despite the fact many Alabama voters believed the accusations against Moore should be adjudicated in court and not judged by Leftmedia talkingheads, many, like Sen. Richard Shelby, could not bring themselves to vote for Moore without those charges being resolved. Thus, in a state Democrats hadn’t won in 25 years, 12 counties flipped from red to blue, and Moore lost 49.9% to 48.4% – in a state where Republicans consistently have won statewide elections by 65 percent or more. His defeat brings the GOP’s Senate majority down to 51-49.

Trump backhandedly complimented Jones, saying, “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 [2020].”

So what are the lessons?

First, this was a big loss for Steve Bannon, who thinks Mitch McConnell is a worse enemy than Chuck Schumer. McConnell is far from perfect and the GOP majority has failed to do some big things this year (i.e., repeal ObamaCare as promised), but it has also succeeded in other areas. Yet fratricidal infighting in the name of destroying the “establishment” will accomplish nothing for the GOP/Trump agenda.

Second, the Jones win is a big loss for Democrats. The Democrat Party had hoped to drag out Moore’s ethics case and hang him around the necks of every Republican in the 2018 midterm elections. As it is, yes, Democrats gain a Senate seat … for now. As The Wall Street Journal concludes, “The good news is that Mr. Moore’s loss may give the GOP a better chance of holding the Senate majority next year. Democrats were primed to make Mr. Moore a national symbol of sexual harassment to drive turnout among women. GOP incumbents would have been asked about Mr. Moore every day.”

That advantage is now gone. And, as Jim Geraghty quips, “I guess this means Al Franken has to go ahead with his resignation, huh?” We argued last week that Franken was waiting to see if Moore won as part of the Demos’ effort to profile Moore and Franken.

However, with no impeachable offense emerging from Robert Mueller’s fake collusion investigation, Democrats now have a proven “sexual allegation” strategy to use against Trump as a centerpiece of their 2018 and 2020 campaigns.

In the meantime, with a one-seat Senate majority, it’s time for Republicans to get to work passing tax reform and the rest of their agenda, earning the trust of voters and leaving this Moore circus in the rearview mirror.

And a footnote: It will be interesting to see where the Moore allegations end up now that they have served their intended political purpose. I predict they go away, given the claims are decades old, unsubstantiated by any burden of proof standard, and thus unprovable.

(Revised.)

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