I’m as relieved as anyone that Roy Moore will not be joining the Senate, and the conservatives who stayed home, wrote in a candidate, or voted for Doug Jones were a necessary ingredient in that outcome. But it’s also worth noting that the margin was just 1.5 percentage points. Most Republican voters pulled the lever for Moore.
One instructive exercise is to compare last night’s vote counts with those of the 2014 gubernatorial race, considering the overall totals were pretty similar — roughly 1.2 million then, 1.3 million yesterday. (Jeff Sessions was elected as a senator that year too, but ran unopposed.)
Alabama’s incumbent Republican governor, Robert Bentley, won 747,000 votes in 2014. Roy Moore won 650,000, or 87 percent of that number. For every eight Alabamians who voted Republican for governor in 2014, about seven Alabamians voted for Moore yesterday.
The 2014 Democratic candidate won just 427,000 votes, compared with 671,000 for Doug Jones, a 57 percent increase. Some of this is no doubt Republicans who switched — but increased Democratic turnout, especially among African Americans, seems to be a major factor.
Roy Moore would have won if he’d matched Bentley’s vote total; instead, he lost about 100,000 votes. But even 100,000 outright defections to the Democrats — i.e., ignoring the fact that many Republican voters likely stayed home and 23,000 people wrote in candidates — wouldn’t have been enough to close the 2014 gap. For that we need to thank Alabama Democrats for stepping up and making a special effort in a statewide race.