A supporter holds a sign during Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones' election night party in Birmingham, Alabama. Photo by REUTERS/Marvin Gentry

How Doug Jones won Alabama

Politics

Democrat Doug Jones narrowly beat out Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate election Tuesday, capitalizing on a large turnout from women and African Americans, as well as voter anger over the sexual misconduct allegations against Moore. In a speech late Tuesday, Moore said "it's not over" and called for a recount, though he lost by 1.5 points with nearly every precinct reporting.

Jones' victory was a milestone for Democrats in Alabama, a deeply conservative state that had not elected a Democratic U.S. senator in more than two decades. It also narrows the GOP Senate majority to 51-49.

Here are key takeaways from the race:

Democrats turned out

Jones needed an enthusiastic turnout from Democrats to beat Moore, and that's exactly what happened on Election Day. A former U.S. attorney with deep ties in the state, Jones received strong support in Alabama's Democratic strongholds, namely Birmingham, Montgomery and other urban areas. The victory comes on the heels of Democratic gains at the state and local level in states like Virginia and New Jersey last month, suggesting that the party's grassroots remain energized one year after President Donald Trump took office.

Counting on the African American vote

Courting black voters was a key part of Jones' strategy, and the effort clearly paid off. Some 28 percent of African Americans voted Tuesday, according to exit polls, equal to the black turnout in the 2012 presidential election. Jones received help from former President Barack Obama, who recorded a robo-call for Jones that went out in the final days of the race. Other prominent black politicians, including Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, made campaign appearances in the state as well on Jones' behalf.

The high turnout was likely aided by Jones' history of working on racial equality and civil rights issues in the state. Jones gained famed as a young prosecutor for conducting a case against two Ku Klux Klan members who were responsible for a 1963 church bombing in Birmingham.

Women and independents reject Moore

Female and independent voters also played a decisive role in the race, with both groups going for Jones over Moore. Jones had a 17-point advantage with women, and a nine-point advantage among self-identified independent voters. His margin widened even more among independent female voters: 58 percent voted for Jones, compared to just 36 percent who backed Moore.

It's impossible to know the exact motivations for these two voting blocs, but the exit polls offer some clues. Among Jones supporters, 97 percent said that opposing Trump was one of the reasons why they voted in the Alabama Senate election, a sign that many Democrats wanted to send a message that would resonate far beyond Alabama.

Sexual assault allegations

Moore's campaign was upended when several women accused him of sexual misconduct when they were teenagers and he was in his thirties. Moore, a former state judge, repeatedly denied the allegations, but his campaign never fully recovered. Interestingly, voters' views on his past broke down entirely along party lines. Among Moore's supporters, 94 percent said they believed the allegations were false. Among Jones' voters, 90 percent believed they were true.

The result was a stinging rebuke for Moore, at a time when a growing number of men in politics — as well as other industries — have faced sexual assault allegations. Last week, three members of Congress announced that they would resign after being accused of sexual harassment. And in recent days the spotlight has shifted back to Trump, who last year was accused of sexual misconduct by numerous women. On Monday, 54 female Democratic lawmakers called for a congressional investigation into the allegations against Trump. In that environment, it was hard for Moore to survive, even in a state as conservative as Alabama.

Fathers vs. mothers

The exit polls also showed a sharp divide between mothers and fathers. Among fathers with children under the age of 18 in their home, 56 percent said they backed Moore, according to the exit polls. Among mothers living with children 18 and under, just 32 percent backed Moore. The split is hard to immediately explain, but it points to the complicated gender dynamics at play in the race, and the different ways men and women approach the issue of sexual harassment.

How bad was the Moore loss for Republicans?

This is one race that Republicans wish they could take back and do over. Senate Republicans lost a crucial vote, making their slim majority even slimmer — and making it that much harder for them to pass significant legislation. The lower-than-expected turnout for Moore, and surprisingly energized Democratic turnout, were also bad signs for Trump and the GOP. The Alabama race was unique, thanks to the controversy surrounding Moore. Still, losing a reliable Senate seat was bad news for Republicans. Their one silver lining? Not having to deal with a Senator Moore in Washington, and all the negative headlines he would generate.


More coverage from Alabama:

How Doug Jones won Alabama first appeared on the PBS NewsHour website.

Additional Support Provided By:

Recently in Politics