The vote had been so close, Fox News waited to call it with around 90% of the votes in. CNN followed; MBNC held off about 10 minutes.
In a head-spinning defeat for President Donald Trump, voters in the ruby red state voted to end their perfect quarter-century record when presented with a GOP option who faced allegations of preying on teenage girls decades ago. Moore also had expressed dubiousness about ending slavery, women’s right to vote, and pretty much everything else added to the Constitution since the 10th Amendment.
So much for Trump thinking, when he named Jeff Sessions his Attorney General, that Session’s Senate seat would not be put in play.
The GOP establishment had been set against Moore; walking up to Tuesday night’s upset, Alabama’s GOP Sen. Richard Shelby had told TV news outlets he could not vote for Moore and urged party voters to write in a candidate. Even First Daughter Ivanka Trump had tweeted there was a “special place in hell” for anyone who abused children. And conservative Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake posted a photo of the check he’d sent Jones’ campaign.
As CNN political commentator David Alexrod noted, it’s never a good sign when a political party has to hide its candidate for the last week of the race, as the GOP had to do with Moore.
On the bright side, Jones’s apparent win saves Senate Republicans the headache of that planned Wednesday morning 10 AM closed-door session to decide whether to launch an ethics committee investigation into Moore.
Jones, a former prosecutor, successfully banked on high African-American turnout, college-educated voters, and eleventh-hour robocalls on his behalf by former President Barack Obama and Veep Joe Biden. Exit polls showed 30% African American turnout – higher than in the presidential elections when Obama was running.
Walking up to the election, media outlets also had put stock in the allegations of sexual impropriety and assault against Moore.
Moore, the twice-tossed Alabama Supreme Court justice, had believed voters would not be swayed by carpetbagger Washington Post’s reporting about multiple women who accused him of seeking relationships when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s; the legal age of consent in the state is 16. One woman claimed Moore initiated a sexual relationship she was 14; another woman alleged he locked her in his car and tried to force her head into his lap when she was 17.
Moore had the endorsements of Steve Bannon and of Trump, who had handily won the state in the presidential race. A few hours before polls closed, a Moore spokesman had told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Alabamans were sick of the “smears” from the media and were casting their votes to bring back “Merry Christmas.”
Reflecting all the controversy and national attention, voter turnout had been very high for a special election.
Jones outspent Moore on the campaign by several laps, though Moore got a late infusion of campaign cash from the RNC. The committee had pulled funding after the first WaPo report, but re-opened its wallet after Trump decided he could simultaneously call the allegations against the candidate “troubling” while also endorsing him.
Early exit polling indicated 55% of voters had an unfavorable opinion of Moore. But 55% also said allegations against Moore were not an important factor. And, of course, Moore on Tuesday rode his horse, Sassy, to his polling place. Riding Sassy to vote is Moore’s good luck charm on Election Day.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose vacated Senate seat the election was set to fill, would not say whose box he checked.
Earlier Tuesday, the WaPo had reported Moore’s campaign has denied it entry into the campaign’s election party in Montgomery, Alabama. Monday night, WaPo had been asked to leave a Moore rally in Midland.