No Matter Who Wins In Alabama, Republicans Stand To Lose

There are no good outcomes for the GOP in Alabama.

Republican Party

The Washington Post’s Paul Kane notes that the GOP stands to lose no matter who wins today’s Alabama Senate race:

If Moore wins, McConnell will face the greatest test yet of the “contagion” theory that he has followed for the past five years. The Senate probably would open an immediate ethics investigation of allegations that Moore made inappropriate advances toward teenage girls when he was a local prosecutor in his 30s. Perhaps more important, the former judge’s positions on such issues as gay rights, marriage and Islam would draw immediate attention — in Moore’s floor speeches, his appearances on news shows and his daily interactions with the congressional press corps in halls of the Capitol — and would force Republicans to explain their colleague’s views day after day after day.

It began during the 2012 Senate campaign in Missouri, when Republican Todd Akin lost after claiming, in an effort to explain his opposition to abortion even in cases of assault, that pregnancy rarely results from a “legitimate rape.” Ever since, Senate Republicans have forcefully tried to defeat candidates they consider on the fringes of public opinion to protect themselves from being damaged by out-of-step views.

Until the Alabama campaign, McConnell’s team had a more than four-year run in successfully thwarting those types of insurgent Republicans in primary races. The strategy helped Republicans end the 2014 and 2016 elections with the majority.

But the run ended this year in Alabama, in the unpredictable era of President Trump. And now, Republicans are unsure about how to proceed.


A Jones victory would give Democrats an immediate injection of energy, and it would encourage others to make long-shot bids in Republican states such as Nebraska, Utah and Wyoming. GOP incumbents are considered overwhelming favorites in those places, but if a Democrat can win in Alabama, it will provide encouragement to others.

If Jones is elected, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) would need a net pickup of two seats next year, and although that would still seem like a high hurdle — Democrats are defending almost three times as many seats as Republicans are, and 10 of them are in states that Trump won last year — it would open a path.

All of it makes that GOP strategy over the summer — what seems like several lifetimes ago — feel ill-advised in the cold light of December.

Kane’s argument, of course, only touches on part of the dilemma that Republicans face in the wake of tonight’s results. As I noted yesterday, a Moore victory would likely mean that he would end up becoming as much of a focus of the Democratic strategy in 2018 as Donald Trump is destined to be. Republican candidates for Senate, particularly those in the handful of states where Republican seats are potentially at risk such as Nevada and Arizona and those running to unseat Democrats in traditionally red states such as Montana and North Dakota will be put on the hot seat and forced to either associate themselves with Moore or distance themselves from him. Candidates for potentially vulnerable House seat are likely to face the same question even though Moore sits in a different chamber of Congress. This will happen not just due to the sexual improprieties that will continue to hang around Moore’s neck but also with the host of controversial statements that Moore and his supporters have made about Muslims, gays and lesbians, and others that Democrats would no doubt seek to attach to the Republican Party as a whole.

In addition to the consequences for candidates in 2018, a Moore victory will place Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republican Caucus in a bind. In the month since the allegations of sexual impropriety leveled against Moore, several Republicans have said that if he is elected then the Senate should send the allegations against him to the Ethics Committee while others have said that the Senate should essentially bypass the Ethics Committee process, which would take an extended period of time to complete, and move to expel Moore from the Senate. That move would require an affirmative vote from two-thirds of the membership of the Senate, meaning that at least nineteen Republicans would need to join with the Democrats in voting for expulsion. In that regard, it’s worth noting that a poll released this morning from Politico and Morning Consult shows that 61% of respondents say that Moore should be expelled from the Senate if he wins the election. This includes 77 percent of Democrats, 59 percent of independents and even 45 percent of Republicans. If Republicans fail to move against Moore should he win, then they will be painted as hypocrites. If they do try to expel him from the Senate, then they are likely to raise the ire of their own base and, most especially that segment of the base that is most loyal to the President. How they choose to act is likely to have real implications for the 2018 midterms.

While it would allow them to avoid the twin problems of having Moore hung like an albatross around their necks in 2018 and facing pressure to push him out of the Senate even while contemplating a rebellion from the base if they do, a Doug Jones victory would pose more practical problems for the GOP. As it stands, Republicans control the Senate by the slim margin of 52 seats to 48 seats for the Democrats. Losing Alabama would drop that majority to 51 seats. We’ve already seen in connection with both the debate over health care reform and the debate over tax reform, Republicans are at a point where they can ill afford to lose a single Republican Senator even in those situations where they don’t have to worry about a sixty-vote threshold. As things stand now, McConnell can still afford to lose two Senators and still get legislation passed with the Vice-President’s tie-breaking vote. If Jones wins, that margin would drop to a single vote. This would give individual Republican Senators who may be on the fence about particular pieces of legislation tremendous bargaining power and would make accomplishing anything in the Senate even harder than it already is at the moment.

Of course, Republicans have nobody to blame but themselves. The phenomenon that led to Roy Moore’s candidacy and his victory in the Senate primary are the same ones that resulted from the Republican Party’s ill-fated decision to make common cause with the Tea Party and other populist movements on the right, which in turn led to the rise of Donald Trump and the fact that the Republican Party has much less power than it seems to even though it controls both chambers of Congress and the White House. They fed the monster, mostly because it helped them win elections and fill their campaign coffers, and now they’re paying the price. I can’t say I feel sorry for them at all.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, 2017 Election, Congress, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Raymond Smith says:

    Sorry but from what I have been seeing in regards to GOP actually concerned about ethics issues. There has been no rally cry on anything ethical. The GOP has turned their heads and looked away as Their chosen members do anything that they want to win, the GOP is practicing a strategy of the “Ends justify the means.” They will continue until they lose power. Anyone that is expecting them to ethically cleanse themselves is sadly mistaken or living in a long ago past GOP era.

  2. michael reynolds says:

    Not since the Civil War has a major American political party been as depraved as the current GOP.

  3. MBunge says:

    You know what might have avoided this whole mess? If McConnell and his buddies hadn’t apparently poured gobs of money into the Alabama GOP primary attacking Congressman Mo Brooks because they thought Brooks was the strongest challenger to McConnell’s boy Luther Strange. But I suppose recognizing that would require you to acknowledge somebody was at fault here besides Roy Moore and Donald Trump.


  4. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Generations of Democratic segregationists say “Hi!”


  5. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Pyrrhic victory
    1. a victory or goal achieved at too great a cost.

    I fully expect Moore to win…most of Alabama is still just as stupid as the 46% of the nation that got conned into voting for Denture Don the Con…nothing has happened that would have raised their collective IQ’s in the ensuing 13 months.
    But I did love Sir Charles’ comments;

    There’s no way possible this guy should — Number One — be in an election. There’s no way. It’s unbelievable that this guy is still in the race. When people in your own party say they won’t vote for you or support you, that’s a dead giveaway. It’s amazing. I am begging and urging everybody to get out, call all your friends. We gotta, at some point, we gotta stop looking like idiots to the nation. “I love Alabama, but we’ve got to draw a line in the sand. We’re not a bunch of damn idiots.”

  6. gVOR08 says:

    Yeah, this sort of thing could encourage challengers. VOX reports that as of June 30, 2015 28 Rs and 44 Ds had filed and raised money for House challenges. June this year it was 28 Rs again and 209 Dems. By this fall it had risen to 71 Rs, and 391 Dems.

  7. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Oh…there’s the guy that supports child molestation and sexual assault, offering up his learned opinion…an opinion that completely ignores history and facts.

  8. michael reynolds says:


    Explain what your God meant by suggesting that Senator Gillibrand would ‘do anything.’

    Explain why virtually everyone in the Trump administration was in contact with the Russians and then lied about it?

    Explain why Trump was in the Miss Universe dressing room perving on half-naked young women?

    Explain why Trump’s own Secretary of State thinks Trump is a ‘moron.’

    Explain why Trump is openly supporting a man who attempted to rape a 14 year-old child?


  9. MarkedMan says:

    Doug, while I agree with your sentiments, the Republican Party leadership did try to stand against the Tea Party morons. But any leader who stood against them lost their seat. There is simply no one left with the integrity and the balls to stand against the horde. But there were three times the leadership could have made a decision to prevent their Party falling into ruins. The first time was in the 1964 election when one of their own leaders very publicly warned them off the Southern Strategy (wherein they started blowing the dog whistles in order to steal the racists from the Southern Democrats and add them to their own coalition). Jacob Javits warned that they were fools to think they could take the racists and the fanatics into the party for only one election cycle. Eventually they would become the Republican Party. And he was right.

    The second time leadership could have put a stop to this descent would have been repudiating Gingrich’s 50% + 1 vote rule, wherein it was considered weak and ineffective to pass bills that had 60 or 70% bipartisan support. Make the bill more extreme until it would pass by only one vote, and that way you knew you had squeezed every drop of blood from the stone. It didn’t matter to the rank and file, but it sure as heck pleased the donors and encouraged them to open their wallets.

    The third would have been jumping off the downward spiral started by the Hastert rule. This has evolved to the point where de facto Republican policy is to pass legislation with only Republicans or not pass any legislation at all. The last time this was violated was with Boehner, and he literally had to quit as Speaker of the House position and resign from congress after doing it.

  10. barbintheboonies says:

    I do not understand why many of you defended Clinton to the end when he was in the Whitehouse screwing around. Pigs are pigs no matter what side they are on.

  11. Erik says:

    @MBunge: I’m not sure I understand why you think it is useful to point out that the Democrats used to be the party of segregation. This is trivially correct, but of no value to your argument since it is no longer correct. It would be like someone being surprised that people from Baltimore were strong Ravens fans instead of Colts fans since once there was a team called the Baltimore Colts. The Democrats have managed to become a better party by shedding their white supremicisit views (not to mention a variety of other antisocial views), and the Republicans have happily picked up that mantle. Which party reflects your values today?

  12. JKB says:

    @michael reynolds: Not since the Civil War has a major American political party been as depraved as the current GOP.

    That’s some rich hyperbole there. Especially since Democrats enforced apartheid until 1965.

    Elected man to the Senate for over 40 years who at a minimum committed manslaughter when he left a young woman to die. The same man who was notorious for his sexual harassment and abuse of waitresses and other women he came into contact with. And let’s not forget his approach to the Soviet Union, Russia when it was an existential enemy of the US, seeking to collude with them to alter a US Presidential election.

    Or how about the decades of support and sucking up to a Senator who was a recruiter for the Klu Klux Klan in his 30s.

    And what of the admitted sexual assaulter who until recent months was the guiding light of the Democratic party after his two terms as President. A man who has made repeated trips on the Lolita express to his wealthy benefactor, and convicted pedophile’s, private island with underage girls?

    Nice hyperbole.

  13. JohnMcC says:

    I read that column this AM, scanning quickly because this has become such a common thought. OK, if it is necessary to have – even temporarily – a Senator Roy Moore then it is also pretty darned inviting to rub every Repub’s face full of Judge Moore.

    But really…wouldn’t it be a tremendously meaningful event for a DEMOCRAT TO WIN IN ALA-FRIGGING-BAMA!!! It would mean that there is a sufficient slice of decent people who could find the fiber to desert their Party and traditions when served up a piece of garbage like the Judge. Of course that’s a major development when Pres Trump is the looming face of the R’s. When Pres Trump has campaigned for the Judge. When some 100 Dem Congresspeople are calling for a Congressional Hearing about the President’s sexual assaults. Of course it is.

    I’m braced for anything tonight. I suppose the Judge probably will win. But….damn! Wouldn’t it be cool to WIN?!

  14. Mikey says:


    A man who has made repeated trips on the Lolita express to his wealthy benefactor, and convicted pedophile’s, private island with underage girls?

    You mean Donald Trump?

  15. al-Ameda says:


    Generations of Democratic segregationists say “Hi!”

    Yes it’s true, Southern Democrats (which do not exist as we knew them prior to the 1964-65 Civil and Voting Rights legislation) were segregationists.

    As you may not know (which is not surprising given the disinformation and alt-fact tendencies of today’s conservative media movement) following passage of that landmark legislation Southern Democrats steadily migrated to the Republican Party, where they could be much more comfortable in their race resentment.

    Maybe you know the answer to this: If, as conservatives like to assert, the Democratic Party is the home of segregationists, how has it come to pass that Black voters now poll 80 to 90% for Democrats instead of the “not a bigoted or racist bone in my body” Republicans?

    Finally, remember how Trump asked Black voters to vote for him, because, ‘what have you got to lose?’ Why were Black voters skeptical of a man whose real estate company discriminated against Clack people who wanted to lease or rent property from the Trump company? It’s a mystery, right?

  16. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @MBunge: Yes, and they do so…..from Republicanstan

  17. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @barbintheboonies: Bless your widdle heart.

  18. Stormy Dragon says:

    I predict that Moore is going to win by a way bigger margin than predicted because of the reverse Bradley Effect in Moore’s favor.

  19. An Interested Party says:

    Oh my, where to begin…

    Especially since Democrats enforced apartheid until 1965.

    That was 1965, you know, over 50 years ago…now we have the GOP trying to make it harder for ethnic minorities to vote…how things change…

    And let’s not forget his approach to the Soviet Union, Russia when it was an existential enemy of the US, seeking to collude with them to alter a US Presidential election.

    Oh but enough about Trump and his slavish devotion to that former KGB thug, Vladimir Putin…

    Or how about the decades of support and sucking up to a Senator who was a recruiter for the Klu Klux Klan in his 30s.

    So now we have to go back 60 years? How about just a few months ago, when Trump told us about the “very fine people” among today’s version of the KKK…

    And as Mikey pointed out, your last paragraph describes Trump perfectly…so, anymore horse$hit you would like to spew?

  20. michael reynolds says:

    The one thing Democrats never did – and neither did Republicans until this administration – is sell this country out to a foreign power. Trump has done exactly that.

    But I’d add we also did not nominate child molesters. I mean, what’s next for you people? You looking for a serial killer to run? Maybe a necrophiliac serial killer? Pity Manson died.

  21. Monala says:

    @JKB: Southern Democrats enforced apartheid. As did Southern Republicans.

    Here is how the 1964 Civil Rights act vote went down:

    The original House version:

    Southern Democrats: 7–87 (7–93%)
    Southern Republicans: 0–10 (0–100%)
    Northern Democrats: 145–9 (94–6%)
    Northern Republicans: 138–24 (85–15%)

    The Senate version:

    Southern Democrats: 1–20 (5–95%) (only Ralph Yarborough of Texas voted in favor)
    Southern Republicans: 0–1 (0–100%) (John Tower of Texas)
    Northern Democrats: 45–1 (98–2%) (only Robert Byrd of West Virginia voted against)
    Northern Republicans: 27–5 (84–16%)

    Notice how a greater percentage of Northern Democats voted for the Civil Rights Act than Northern Republicans? (Although a significant majority of both voted for it). And notice how a greater percentage — in fact 100% — of Southern Republicans voted against it? And even though the vast majority of Southern Democrats voted against it, a few of them had the courage to break ranks and support the Civil Rights Act. Again, not a single Southern Republican did.

  22. Mister Bluster says:

    CNN just called it for Jones!

  23. KM says:


  24. CSK says:

    Trump must be clenching his teeny little fists in a rage.

    He backed TWO losers in Alabama: Strange, then Moore.

  25. Hal_10000 says:

    I’m sure I’ll have my issue with Jones, but I am incredibly relieved tonight and surprisingly proud of Alabama.

  26. JohnMcC says:

    @JohnMcC: Wow! I was ready to keep on keeping on in this ugly Trumpian wasteland. But maybe it was darkest just before the dawn, eh?

  27. CSK says:

    I’m wondering if Trump has been put in a straitjacket yet.

  28. gVOR08 says:

    Hot damn.

  29. Stormy Dragon says:

    Well, I am pleasantly surprised. I figured the racist theocrat vote was way more than 48.8% of the voters in Alabama.

  30. michael reynolds says:

    Okay, so it’s true and we’re living in a simulation, with inscrutable, distant powers using as us as their playthings. I mean, there’s no other way to explain that Alabama now has a Democratic senator. Obviously. Or it may be lizard people.

  31. Mister Bluster says:

    Steven Law, the president of the super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, blamed Bannon for Jones’ victory.
    “This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running,” Law said in a statement. “Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco.”

    Let the blood flow

  32. JKB says:

    Well, Jones wins.

    I suggest you all take your stress meds for when Trump spins this. Remember how he rolled with the birth certificate when Obama finally produced it.

  33. Stormy Dragon says:

    Roy Moore is confusing to concede because GAWWWWWWDDDDDDDD

  34. Terrye Cravens says:

    I can’t believe it! There is a God!

  35. Mister Bluster says:

    @Terrye Cravens:..I can’t believe it! There is a God!

    Jumpin’ Jehovah must have been on the back nine when Pud got elected.

  36. michael reynolds says:

    We passed peak Trump months ago. Now he’s failed twice in blood red Alabama. This is the Doolittle raid of electoral politics. We just struck deep inside enemy territory. I’m sure McConnell is relieved at some level, but beneath all that there is, or at least should be real fear. Democrats just took a senate seat in a state that went for Trump by IIRC 28 points. Trump is at 37% give or take, and against that about 55% of Americans would happily pitch in to dig his (political) grave. He’s a loser, baby. Weak.

  37. Slugger says:

    Moore’s wife recently responded to accusations of anti-semitism by stating that they used a Jewish lawyer.
    Mrs. Moore, a vendor is not a real friend. If you want a Jewish friend, I am available. I will be a real friend; I will tell you the truth.

  38. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Jumpin’ Jehovah must have been on the back nine when Pud got elected.

    The good news: there is a god.
    The bad news: the god is Loki.

  39. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Well kids, this was certainly worth getting up early for 😀

    Stay mad, Democrats. We still have work left to do.

  40. EddieinCA says:

    Two weeks ago, I finished a job in Atlanta. Rather than go home, I drove to Birmingham and volunteered to work on the Jones Campaign. I did nothing but phone bank work for them, and today, I drove people to the polls. I thought Jones would win, just based on what some the anti-Moore feelings I was hearing from Republicans. However, I did not want to stick out my neck after what happened last November.

    I was an unpaid volunteer. Fortunately, hotels in Birmingham are not expensive.

    To say that I’m relieved is an understatement, even though, as a progressive, it would have been much better for the Dems if Moore had one. It would have made 2018 so much easier. However, it would have been terrible for the country. So I’m glad Jones won.

    And given what’s happening in KY, TN, AZ, and NV, the Senate is in play for 2018. I think the house will flip, but the Senate is still iffy. But it’s in play after Virginia and now, Alabama.

  41. Mister Bluster says:

    Thank you EddieinCa.

  42. Daryl's other brother Daryll says:

    Where is Bunge to tell us this is all part of Denture Dons 10 dimensional chess game???

  43. Hal_10000 says:

    Trump’s tweet tonight was unusually gracious and grammatically correct. I can only assume he’s been hacked.

  44. CSK says:


    I saw that. I’m dumbfounded.

  45. Facebones says:

    @Hal_10000: I’m 100% sure he didn’t write that. Some aide did after Trump nodded off after screaming at the tv.

  46. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Too true.

    @Hal_10000: For certain. Complete sentences and everything.

    @EddieinCA: And yes, thankyou.

  47. wr says:

    @JKB: “I suggest you all take your stress meds for when Trump spins this”

    You mean when he tries to claim that he never heard of Roy Moore, that Jones only won with his support, and that he is completely victorious in every case? The only meds we’ll need are pain pills after we throw out our backs from laughing too hard.

    Your boy-emperor is done. He’s still got the power of his office, but even his biggest toadies in Congress can see that he’s an anchor on their future.

  48. wr says:

    @Facebones: “Some aide did after Trump nodded off after screaming at the tv.”

    Maybe he doesn’t know yet. Did Fox even carry the election results?

  49. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I know everyone wants to make this all about the pedophile who was running for the US Senate seat being unacceptable to the voters of Alabama but I do wonder. I wonder if maybe, just maybe, it was really about DEM voters being totally and completely p1ssed off about the direction of a GOP without a halter or muzzle and now not letting anything stop them from voting, and in the wake of these tax votes GOP voters are coming to the realization that the GOP really does hate them and while they still can’t bring themselves to vote for a DEM, they can no longer bring themselves to vote for a GOP either.

    It’s a thought anyway.

  50. Mikey says:
  51. CSK says:

    Well, Trump has Tweeted twice since his initial congratulations to Jones.

    He’s claiming that he always knew Moore would lose,which is why he backed Strange, whose poll numbers shot up after he, Donald Trump, endorsed Strange.

    He’s also in a rage because 90% of the Fake News about him is negative.

  52. Franklin says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I was afraid of that, but alas it didn’t work this time, yay!