Democrats across the country are savoring a huge victory in Alabama with the election of Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate. In an upset, he narrowly defeated Republican Roy Moore — by about 1.5 points. Moore still hasn’t conceded.
When Jones takes office next month, the Republican advantage in the Senate will shrink to just one seat: 51-49. That will make it even more difficult for President Trump to get his agenda passed.
Still, he phoned Jones to offer his congratulations, and took some consolation in reminding folks he’d once predicted correctly that Moore couldn’t win.
Alabama voters rolled back the political tides Tuesday and Doug Jones told his supporters: “Thank you!”
“I have always believed the people of Alabama had more in common than to divide us,” Jones added.
And it’s not because Roy Moore’s supporters stayed home.
“The rural white voters voted very heavily … and very heavily for Roy Moore,” Steve Flowers, Alabama’s leading political analyst, told CBS News’ Manuel Bojorquez. “But they were upset by an astronomical turnout of African American voters.”
Exit polls show a whopping 96 percent of African American voters chose Jones. He also won two other key demographics: women and younger voters.
Zoe Austin, who voted in her very first Senate race, spoke to Bojorquez.
“I wanted to vote on the side of right to show that there is some good still in the hearts of the people of Alabama,” she said.
Jones was able to energize a traditionally weak Democratic network. He was buoyed largely by millions in outside money and outspent Moore 10 to 1.
His campaign says supporters knocked on 300,000 doors and made more than one million calls.
And Jones had multiple campaign appearances a day, Bojorquez reports, while Moore shied away from cameras — dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls.
Flowers says Moore’s controversial comments — on everything from same-sex marriage to slavery — became too much for some moderate Republicans.
“There were also the upscale suburban urbane Republicans who did not want Roy Moore — the image he gave the state of Alabama,” Flowers said. “A lot of them voted for Doug Jones.”
Bojorquez also spoke to life-long Republicans like Monica Wesson who has a teenage daughter. CBS News asked how Moore’s accusations influenced her decision when it came to vote.
“Very heavily. Very heavily. I would say that was the majority of my feelings,” Wesson said.
Doug Jones could also thank the state’s senior Republican Senator, Richard Shelby, who said he wrote in another candidate because he could not vote for Moore. Write-ins accounted for nearly two percent of the vote, giving Jones that narrow lead.
Following his victory, reaction poured in on Capitol Hill, CBS News’ congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reports.
“I look forward to having Mr. Jones here,” Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, said.
Republicans were so relieved Wednesday, you’d think they picked up a seat, Cordes reports.
“Strange to say I guess from my side of the aisle, but I thought it was a great night for America,” Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, said.
Alabamians didn’t want somebody that dated 14-year-old girls,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisconsin, said.
Any anger they had was directed at Steve Bannon for backing Roy Moore over the more mainstream GOP incumbent.
“This guy does not belong on the national stage,” Rep. Peter King, R-New York, told CNN’s “New Day.” “He looks like some disheveled drunk that wandered onto the political stage.”
On Breitbart Radio, Bannon said he simply got outhustled at the end.
“One thing you’ve gotta give a hat tip to, the DNC came in here, slipped in here underneath the radar and did an amazing job of organizing what’s my favorite word? Ground game,” Bannon said.
Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said, “Things are looking good for us.”
Jubilant Democrats say a win in deep red Alabama shows they can easily pick up seats in Arizona and Nevada next fall, and retake control of the Senate.
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pennsylvania, said the GOP is on the ropes.
“I do think they have to examine how a nomination process led to not only to Roy Moore, but also the nomination of President Trump,” Casey said. “He was their nominee as well.”
But Republicans like Iowa’s Chuck Grassley insisted last night’s loss had to do with one flawed candidate, nothing more.
What’s the main lesson he learned from the race in Alabama? “That you should not be involved in the sexual harassment of women,” Grassley said.
Republicans are grateful that they won’t all be tied to Roy Moore when they run for re-election in 2018. They also avoid a messy ethics investigation and what could have been the first expulsion of a senator since the Civil War.
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