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Fewer is Moore

A GOP loss in Alabama could be a blessing for Republicans as character suddenly becomes king in U.S. politics

Doug Jones celebrates his victory over Roy Moore. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP

Fewer is Moore
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Democrats are facing an uphill struggle to take control of the U.S. Senate in next year’s midterm elections, having to defend 26 seats compared with Republicans only having to defend eight seats.

Senate Democrats lost a powerful weapon for that fight when they won a special election for a U.S. Senate seat from Alabama on Tuesday.

Over the next year, the 49.9 percent to 48.4 percent victory that Democrat Doug Jones gained over Republican Roy Moore will force Republican senators to work with the slimmest possible majority in the Senate, 51-49. But in the November elections, they won’t have to defend Moore or deflect attention away from him at a time when public anger is focused on powerful men sexually abusing younger women. Democrats won’t be able to make Moore the public face of Senate Republicans in 2018.

It was a close-run race, but the closeness belies a massive swing away from Republicans. Jones won by 1.5 points in a state that Donald Trump won by 28 points in 2016, meaning the state swung 29.5 points in one year. But Jones, a conventional liberal Democrat, didn’t win over Republicans. Moore lost them.

Turnout was remarkably low in Republican areas. For example, Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight.com pointed out on election night that Moore won heavily Republican Fayette County overwhelmingly, but only 5,000 people voted compared with 7,000 in the 2014 midterm elections. In that one county, 2,000 fewer people voted in one of the highest-profile Senate races in recent memory than voted in a race in which Republican Jeff Sessions ran unopposed. (Turnout, meanwhile, was high in urban areas that favored Jones.)

Some Republicans stayed home and others followed the lead of Richard Shelby, a Republican who holds the other Senate seat from Alabama. He announced he would write in a vote for a Republican: “I’m not going to vote for the Democrat, I didn’t vote for the Democrat or advocate for the Democrat. But I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore.”

The final results showed 22,819 write-ins for a race in which Jones’ winning margin was 20,715 votes.

Concerns about Roy Moore’s character were the driving force behind these defections. In November, The Washington Post reported on accusations that Moore had pursued teenage girls when he was a 30-something assistant district attorney in Gadsden, Ala., during the 1970s and ’80s. Moore wavered between denying the accusations and saying he had the permission of the mothers of any teenage girls he dated. Several other similar accusations surfaced, and two of the accusers said Moore sexually assaulted them when they were teens. (Moore strongly denied the assault accusations.)

Moore’s loss is one more indication that the wave of assault accusations reshaping Hollywood and the national media is now changing what’s acceptable behavior among politicians of both parties as well.

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., resigned because of allegations of sexual misconduct; Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., resigned for the same reason; and now Republican Roy Moore has lost in one of the reddest states in the union. The days when a Ted Kennedy could get away with Chappaquiddick and “waitress sandwich” and regularly win reelection, or when a Bill Clinton could deflect credible accusations of sexual assault and win, seem to be over—at least for now.

“This was not a loss on policy,” former GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum told CNN on election night. “This was a loss on character.”

Timothy Lamer

Tim is executive editor of WORLD Commentary. He previously worked for the Media Research Center in Alexandria, Va. His work has also appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The Weekly Standard.


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