As I noted late last night, the Republican party dodged a bullet yesterday. As frustrating as it is to lose a Senate seat in a ruby-red state, it would be worse to spend the next three years having every inane, offensive, and Constitutionally illiterate utterance from Roy Moore’s mouth hung around the necks of rest of the party. (This assumes that the GOP didn’t feel the moral and political need to expel him after a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.) Sometimes your primary voters completely mess up and nominate a walking liability. Better to take the short term pain for the longer-term gain.
Roy Moore got a bit more than 48 percent in a state where Republicans consistently win 65 percent or more statewide.
To the extent there is still a Republican mainstream, Roy Moore isn’t in it. Nationally, this group doesn’t like the idea of thirtysomething men dating teenage girls in general and wasn’t so certain that Moore didn’t do something inappropriate with those four named girls. Whatever their concerns about Islam, they don’t think that Muslims should be barred from holding public office. They’re big fans of all the current constitutional Amendments, not just the first ten. They don’t think the era of slavery was great for family values. They don’t think that you could say America is the focus of evil in the modern world. Most Republicans know that you are not legally required to take the oath of office on a Bible; it’s not clear that Moore campaign spokesman Ted Crockett knew this.
Trump’s first tweet from last night was . . . oddly magnanimous: “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!” (Quite a few folks speculated someone besides the president wrote that one.) Then early this morning, he was back to form — with a predictable boast that he never thought Moore could win, but felt obligated to support the GOP nominee anyway. “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!”
Last night’s cable news debates focused a lot on how much this surprise Democrat win represented a loss for the president. President Trump lost mostly in the sense that he would have been better off not endorsing Moore at all. He jumped on the bandwagon just in time to ride it over the cliff. We’re used to Trump’s “oh yeah, I always knew that was going to happen” boasting, but in this case, clearly some part of him was hesitant to give a full-throated endorsement. Trump’s gradual Tweet-based endorsement and criticism of Doug Jones followed Moore’s general rebound in the polls. (No one should have trusted the polling in this race! Too many Republicans who didn’t want to admit they were voting for a Democrat, and too many Republicans who didn’t want to admit they were voting for Roy Moore!)
A lot of the blame for last night’s defeat is being laid at the feet of Steve Bannon, with plenty of justification. Congressman Adam Kinzinger: “Bannon is a RINO. His morally inept strategies are unwelcome here.” Congressman Peter King: “After Alabama disaster GOP must do right thing and DUMP Steve Bannon. His act is tired, inane and morally vacuous. If we are to Make America Great Again for all Americans, Bannon must go! And go NOW!!”
The thing is . . . go where? He’s not in the White House anymore. It’s not clear that any elected Republicans of significance turn to Bannon for guidance. (Does Trump still talk to him?) Bannon is basically running his own operation, attracting the desperate detritus of past cycles who are hoping for one last comeback shot.
The Math in Alabama Doesn’t Add Up to a State-Funded Recount
Roy Moore did not give a concession speech last night. He’s not convinced he lost, and seems to think a state-funded automatic recount is still a possibility. That does not seem likely, based upon the initial tally.
Secretary of State John Merrill said it’s too soon to know whether the margin of victory by Doug Jones in Alabama’s special election on Tuesday will trigger the state’s automatic recount law.
State law calls for an automatic recount in a general election if a candidate wins by not more than 0.5 percent, unless the defeated candidate submits a waiver.
Merrill said it is doubtful the outcome of the state’s U.S. Senate race will change. “It would be very unlikely for that to occur,” Merrill said late Tuesday.
Overseas ballots, provisional ballots and possibly write-in ballots will have to be counted before a final margin is determined in Jones’ narrow win over Roy Moore.
The Associated Press reported that with all 2,220 precincts reporting, Jones received 671,151 votes, 50 percent, to Moore’s 650,436, 48.4 percent.
There were 22,819 write-in votes cast.
That’s a 1.6 percent margin, with 1,344,406 votes cast; Jones’ margin over Moore was 20,715 votes.
One half of one percent under the current total would be about 6,723; as you can see, Moore’s margin is three times the amount that triggers an automatic recount. The state does not count write-in ballots that vote for someone ineligible for the office, so some write-ins will be tossed.
But even if every write-in ballot voted for “Mickey Mouse” and was tossed out, Jones would have 50.7 percent to 49.2 percent . . . still a 1.5 percent margin.
Just to qualify for an automatic recount, Roy Moore would need as many write-ins dismissed as possible AND an unprecedented overwhelming margin of about 14,000 or so votes among overseas ballots and provisional ballots.
When Mike Huckabee is calling you out for acting like a sore loser, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee. Huckabee on Twitter this morning: “Roy Moore won’t concede; says will wait on God to speak. God wasn’t registered to vote in AL but the ppl who voted did speak and it wasn’t close enough for recount. In elections everyone does NOT get a trophy. I know first hand but it’s best to exit with class.”
That doesn’t seem likely. The entire Moore operation has been about Moore and his ambitions. A better man would have recognized he was endangering the values and ideas he claimed to stand for and withdrawn from the race. A better man would have answered all questions about his interactions with all of his accusers in great detail from anyone who wanted to ask, not just stumbling on softballs from Sean Hannity. A better man would have at least remembered to congratulate his rival on a hard-fought race on Election Night.
A better man might have recognized that his own state party declared the race over. Alabama Republican party chairman Terry Lathan conceded the race: “If Mr. Jones aligns himself with the liberal Democrats in Washington, Alabama voters will remember his choices in the 2020 U.S. Senate election. Now that this race has ended, may this holiday season of peace, love and hope resonate with everyone, regardless of one’s political affiliation.”
That Other Big Change Coming to the U.S. Senate Soon . . .
How do you think Al Franken is feeling this morning? Everyone wondered if he would rescind his resignation if Roy Moore won, and audaciously declare that he didn’t need to resign from the Senate if the chamber was willing to accept a man facing serious accusations like Moore.
Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is Gov. Mark Dayton’s choice to fill the Senate seat to be vacated by Al Franken, according to a Democratic official with firsthand knowledge. Dayton is set to announce the choice Wednesday at 10 a.m..
Smith also said she will run in the special election for the seat in November, according to the person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely discuss a private conversation.
So, when exactly is that resignation date, Senator Franken?
ADDENDA: A spectacular quote from Josh Holmes, a former top aide to Mitch McConnell, in the Washington Post: “If I had the top five Republican minds in politics and we spent three months attempting to conceive of a way to lose an Alabama Senate race, I’m not sure that we could come up with it. You could literally take any name out of a phone book except Roy Moore’s and win by double digits. And we managed to get the only guy in Alabama that could lose to a Democrat.”