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On Tuesday history was made, as Democrat Doug Jones won Alabama’s special Senate election against an embattled Republican opponent and President Donald Trump, who urgently endorsed GOP rebel Roy Moore despite a litany of sexual misconduct allegations.  This victory was the first Democratic Senate victory in a quarter-century in Alabama, which is one of the reddest of red states, and proved anew that party loyalty is anything but sure in the age of Trump.

Jones declared as supporters in a Birmingham ballroom cheered, danced and cried tears of joy “We have shown not just around the state of Alabama, but we have shown the country the way — that we can be unified. I think that I have been waiting all my life, and now I just don’t know what the hell to say.”

Meanwhile, according to WRAL News Moore actually refused to concede and raised the possibility of a recount during a brief appearance at a somber campaign party in Montgomery. Alabama state law calls for a recount if the margin of victory is less than one-half of one percentage point. With all precincts reporting, Jones led by 1.5 points — three times that margin. 

Trump tweeted his congratulations to Jones “on a hard-fought victory” — but added that “the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!”  Jones takes over the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the term expires in January of 2021.

Despite the short term sting, still many Washington Republicans viewed the defeat of Moore as perhaps the best outcome for the party nationally. The fiery Christian conservative’s positions have alienated women, racial minorities and Muslims (in addition to the multiple allegations that he was guilty of sexual misconduct with teens, one only 14, when he was in his 30s).

A number of Republicans declined to support Moore, including Alabama’s long-serving Sen. Richard Shelby. However that didn’t stop Trump from lending his name and the national GOP’s resources to Moore’s campaign in recent days.

Although it may be narrow, the Republican loss also gives Democrats a clearer path to a Senate majority in 2018.  Ultimately, Tuesday’s contest came down to which side better motivated its supporters to vote.

Jones successfully fought to gather together an unlikely coalition of African-Americans, liberal whites and moderate Republicans.  His strongest support came from across Alabama’s “black belt,” named for the color of its soil, and in the larger urban areas, including Montgomery, Birmingham, Mobile, Tuscaloosa and Huntsville.

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