Alabama – The Morning After

The Hawthorn Group | 0 comments | by The Hawthorn Group

To Hawthorn Friends & Family — 


            After years (actually now decades, I realize) of “toiling in the vineyards” of Alabama and enjoying so many cherished friendships there, it seems appropriate to comment on yesterday’s triumph by Doug Jones over Roy Moore in the U.S. Senate special election.  I am struck by: 

·         While it WAS a stunning victory for Democrats . . . and perhaps even more a stunning loss for Republicans, including President Trump and Steve Bannon . . . it was, as Wellington said of Waterloo, the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.” 

Doug Jones won  by 20,332 votes out of 1,344,406 cast, 49.9% to 48.4%, 671,515 to 650,436.  A switch of 10,167 votes – a handful per precinct – would have reversed the outcome. 

There were 22,819 write-in votes, 1.7% . . . and enough to have changed the outcome if they had all otherwise gone to Roy Moore.   

When senior U.S. Senator Richard Shelby announced he was “writing in the name of a distinguished Republican,” he gave Republicans “permission” to go to the polls and NOT vote for Moore.  Write-in’s were only o.2% of the vote in the 2014 gubernatorial and 0.5% of the vote in the 2010 gubernatorial, so this number of write-ins WAS an outlier, perhaps a critical one. (FYI:  Senator Shelby was the last Democrat to win a U.S. Senate election in Alabama, in 1992, before he switched parties in 1994.) 

·         Candidates DO matter.

[See Todd Aiken, Missouri, 2012 U.S. Senate GOP nominee on “legitimate rape”] 

Mike DeBonis in this morning’s POST quotes former McConnell aide Josh Holmes as saying,  

“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 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.” 

The “believable” (by many including Ivanka Trump, but NOT including President Trump) accusations of Moore’s sexual misconduct and preying on young women . . . his racism . . . his homophobia . . . his belief Muslims can’t serve in Congress because they can’t take the oath of office on a Christian Bible . . . his subordination of the rule of law to HIS religious beliefs . . . his populist defiance that became personal irrationality . . . finally mattered more than Doug Jones’ Democrat liberalism and extreme pro-choice position. 

·         African-Americans turned out AND delivered nearly 100% of their votes (96% – 4%) for Doug Jones.  Their turnout reached an historic high of some 30% . . . higher, even, than for President Obama in ’08 and ’12. 

There also appears to have been better-than-expected turnout among younger voters.  And the pundits are saying “soccer moms” were a critical difference. 

And all this turnout happened with no traditional political “machines” or organization, except what the campaign built itself.  The Democrat Party has been “dead and buried” in Alabama for years.  Much of the old African American machine has fallen into disfunction.  The once awesome Alabama Education Association is an irrelevant shadow of its former self.  Many labor union members have fallen into a pattern of voting Republican, especially for federal offices. 

Committed, caring voters took it upon themselves, supported by the campaign, to go to the polls. 

·         This mirrors the voter enthusiasm/turnout/performance last month in New Jersey and, especially, in Virginia, where Democrat Ralph Northam received more votes than any Governor in Virginia’s history (and won by a stunning nine points) and control of the House – once thought invincibly Republican – now rests on recounts.  People may be disgusted with politics, but they WILL go to the polls, given a critical choice. 

·         It reconfirmed the old rule independents decide elections.  Yesterday, Democrats (37% of those voting) voted for Jones over Moore 98% – 2%.  Republicans (43% of those voting) voted for Moore over Jones 91% – 8%.  The election was decided by the Independents (21% of those voting) who voted for Jones over Moore 51% to 43%. 

·         It was a triple loss for President Trump, who supported appointed Senator Luther Strange in the primary and the run-off (Strange lost both to Moore), then reversed for Moore to support him in the general (which he lost), this in a state Trump carried by 28.3 points (62.9% – 34.6.  The President’s popularity is (hardly uniquely) NOT transferrable.  It was said of the faithful who attended his rally for Luther Strange, “they went and cheered the President, but have no intention of voting for his candidate” . . . and they didn’t. 

·         A now one-vote margin makes it more difficult for the GOP to control the Senate.  AND it increases the stature and bargaining power of Senators like Corker, Flake, Collins, McCain and other Senators who are “problems” for President Trump.  It also emboldens Senator Heller of Nevada (facing perennial loser Danny Tarkanian as the choice of the super-right in the primary) to take more moderate positions.  And it has to be encouraging to former Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, who appears likely to take on super-right Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn in the battle for Senator Corker’s seat. 

·         But no one should be fooled about how hard it is going to be for Democrats to regain control of the Senate in 2018.   

There are 25 Democrats and Independents up (26 if Al Franken’s retirement proceeds) and only eight Republicans 

Of those 25 Democrats, 10 are running in states which President Trump carried a year ago, some by stunning margins: 

ØJoe Manchin has to get re-elected in West Virginia where President Trump won by 42 points, 68.5 – 26.4.

ØHeidi Heitkamp has to get re-elected in North Dakota where President Trump won by 36 points, 63 – 27.   

ØClaire McCaskill – who can’t count on another suicidal opponent – has to win re-election in Missouri, which Trump carried by 19 points, 57 – 38.   

Only one Republican – Dean Heller in Nevada – is running for re-election in a state Sen. Clinton carried.   

And one election victory – even in Alabama – is not a reliable predictor for an election 11 months away. 

In 2012, Sen. McCaskill won a stunning up-set re-election victory in Missouri, bucking the Republican tide there (albeit, as noted above, against a candidate – Todd Aiken – nearly as flawed as Roy Moore).  But two years later, nationally in 2014, Republicans picked up eight Senate seats to take the majority in that house from the Democrats. 

·         We can hope we have seen and heard nearly the last of Roy Moore, that he will become increasingly a n irrelevant “fringe” figure.  He has now lost a race for the U.S. Senate, two races for governor, a race for circuit judge, and a race for district attorney, and been twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court. 

·         While the votes of 671,151 voters in a state of 4,863,300 citizens cannot, by themselves, redefine their state . . . and, in fact, Moore appeared to still win white women by 29 points, and whites with no college degree by 55 points . . . in the words of our Research Director (who predicted the Jones victory) Jefferson Freeman, “decency won tonight.”  Or, as Doug Jones said in his acceptance speech, using a favorite quote of President Obama’s from the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

“The arc of the moral universe is long,

but it bends toward justice.”  

Up-Dates and Corrections 

·         Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton just announced he will appoint Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith, his former chief of staff, to succeed Senator Al Franken.  That will put BOTH Minnesota Senate seats on the ballot in 2018. 

·         In the last Friends & Family, I noted the new Mayor of Charlotte, Vi Lyles, is the city’s first African-American Mayor.  She is – with apologies to the Hon. Harvey Gantt, a giant I should never have forgotten, even momentarily – not.  She is the city’s first WOMAN African-American Mayor. 

In a “double error” I also noted Virginia last month had elected its first African-American Lieutenant Governor, thereby doing a gross disservice to one of the Old Dominion state’s most distinguished public officials, L. Douglas Wilder, easily remembered as Virginia’s first African-American Governor, but who earlier served as Lieutenant Governor (first of his race in that role) and State Senator and, later, as Mayor of Richmond. 

My apologies to both these genuine icons. 

And Happy Holidays from all of us at The Hawthorn Group!

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