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The controversial special election in Alabama has captured the national spotlight, and its impact will be felt far beyond Tuesday, says CBS News’ chief Washington correspondent and “Face the Nation” anchor John Dickerson. The impact will be felt not only in the Republicans’ paper-thin majority of the Senate, but could also set the tone for how sexual misconduct allegations will factor into elections. 

In one in the deepest red states, a Democratic senator has not been elected since 1992. But even before the allegations of sexual misconduct against Republican Roy Moore surfaced, the race had taken some unexpected turns. The GOP-backed candidate, Luther Strange, who had been appointed by former Gov. Robert Bentley, lost in a Republican primary against former Alabama Judge Roy Moore. 

While popular in Alabama, Moore was removed as chief justice of the state Supreme Court in 2003 when he refused to comply with a court order to remove a giant Ten Commandments monument outside the State Supreme Court. After being voted back to the bench, he was suspended permanently in 2016 when he refused to issue marriage licenses to gay couples, despite federal law. 


John Dickerson

CBS News

Doug Jones, meanwhile, is also popular in Alabama, most famously convicting two Klansman for the 1963 Birmingham church bombing.

The numerous allegations against Moore came as the nation deals with its own reckoning about the treatment of women. While President Trump was elected in 2016 despite allegations of sexual misconduct against him, Democrats have started calling on him to resign. On Tuesday, more than 100 House Democrats called on the Oversight Committee to investigate the allegations against Mr. Trump. 

Meanwhile, two prominent Democrats recently resigned after being accused of inappropriate behavior. 

This election, therefore, could be an indicator of what will happen to accusations against powerful men in the future. While the White House says voters knew about the allegations against Moore and voted him into office anyway, Dickerson noted that that standard has been changing in American politics. 

After the allegations of sexual misconduct — including a woman who said Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was 14 years old and he was 32 — Moore lost the support of many establishment Republicans. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for Moore to drop out of the race, although McConnell has since said Alabama voters should determine the outcome. McConnell has said Moore will face a Senate ethics investigation if elected.

“If that held, if it’s true that accusations heard before an election night are wiped out by an election, why wouldn’t that apply to Roy Moore?” Dickerson asked. “But you’ve now got lots of Republican senators saying, even if he wins, we’ll take this up and look at his case. If that is true for Roy Moore, why isn’t it worth looking against at those accusers against the president?”

The election of a Republican who has lost the support of his party raises the question of what it means to be a Republican. 

“When the RNC – the Republican National Committee – and the president supported Roy Moore, a number of Republican officeholders felt like that went too far – that the party was supporting somebody just because they had an R next to their name and there were no other standards,” Dickerson said. 

Dickerson said there have been some “pretty rough things said” by Republicans about their president and their party — and by Mr. Trump about his party. 

“So how does Humpty Dumpty get put back together again when we’re talking about moral claims, integrity here … when you say those kinds of hard things, does it just go away?” Dickerson said.

As Dickerson noted, the effects of those comments could last long past Tuesday night. 

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