Doug Jones pulled off a surprise victory in Alabama on Tuesday, becoming the first Democrat in 25 years to win a Senate race in the staunchly conservative southern state, and narrowing the Republicans' Senate majority to 51-49. Moore received a firm endorsement from President Trump, but faced setbacks over his record of controversial statements and allegations of sexual misconduct against women and teenagers as young as 14.
Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Dr. Jeanne Zaino, a political observer and political science professor at Iona College in New York, explained why Moore's loss was really Trump's loss.
Jeanne Zaino: It's a loss to Donald Trump, it's certainly a loss to the Republican Party, to the president's former advisor and Republican strategist Steve Bannon, and of course Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell. There's a lot of blame to go around, and the Republican Party wakes up today suffering a loss in a state that they usually win and should win by [upwards of] 14 points, and one in which a Democrat has not won statewide since the early 1990s. The fact that Doug Jones was able to come from behind in the way he did, after the president's full-throated endorsement…Trump got behind Roy Moore in a way that most people said he shouldn't, given the allegations against Moore and what a divisive candidate he was, and he's now waking up this morning suffering the consequences of that.
And it goes beyond that, because the Senate is now just narrowly in Republican hands, making it very tough for the president to move his agenda forward. So from almost any direction this is an enormous loss for the president.
If last night’s election proved anything, it proved that we need to put up GREAT Republican candidates to increase the razor thin margins in both the House and Senate.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2017
Sputnik: What does the loss of such a staunch Republican state like Alabama say about the state of the Republican Party and Donald Trump's presidency?
Jeanne Zaino: In November, when we had off-year elections, Republicans suffered huge losses in New Jersey, typically a Democratic, blue state, and Virginia, a swing state; those were signs that the Republican Party is having real trouble during the Trump administration taking and holding seats. But the fact that they have now lost in what is a reliably Red state – many people have joked half-heartedly here that there was nothing you could do to lose as a Republican in Alabama. For them to wake up to this loss is a sign to the Republicans and to the country as a whole that the president is going to have a very tough time in next year's midterm election. It didn't seem possible a year ago, but now it looks like the Democrats could take the House and maybe even the Senate in 2018. So while the president has a real challenge getting his agenda through a Republican-controlled Congress, you can imagine how things would change under a Democratic Congress.
[Furthermore,] this is a president who is facing calls for his resignation, calls for impeachment. That's unlikely to happen in a House controlled by Republicans, but if the Democrats take over the House of Representatives, a Democratic impeachment of the president in the House is something that very well may occur under those circumstances. So it could be a political death for the president at this point.
Sputnik: Moore has refused to concede. Does this mean he's prepared to launch a legal battle against his rival? Could he succeed?
Jeanne Zaino: I think we're going to see Moore have no choice but to concede today or in the coming days. We would have an automatic recount in Alabama if the vote was within 0.5%, but it's over 1.5%. So there will be no automatic state-wide recount. He could file a lawsuit, I doubt he would have the support to move that forward, and the results would likely be exactly the same.
[Moore] really faced an uphill battle in the last few hours; even a Fox News poll had Jones up ten points before this race, so a recount, even if he could push for one, it's unlikely that a recount would happen, or do anything to help him get into the Senate…
Sputnik: Is there anything specific about Jones that has really convinced the public to vote for him, or is it just negativity from the Republicans' candidate?
Jeanne Zaino: …I do think Doug Jones was appealing [to voters], but I have to say, if you look at this race, this was a vote against Roy Moore. Moore has said and done things that have made him a rather unpopular candidate for many years in Alabama, but the latest round of allegations of sexual misconduct against women as young as 14, coupled with the fact that he is someone who has harkened back to the time of slavery as the best time for families, wanted to get rid of the last 17 amendments of the Constitution, including the right of women and blacks to vote, this is somebody who has said and done quite outrageous things for many, many decades. I really do think that almost any other Republican in Alabama could have taken this seat, but when they put up this candidate, who is so divisive, Republicans…[wrote] in an alternative candidate or simply stayed home, and enough Democrats came out to support Doug Jones that they very narrowly put him over the line.
Sputnik: Given your political experience, what would be your best advice for Donald Trump now and prognosis for him moving forward for the next 2-3 years?
Jeanne Zaino: He famously doesn't like advice, so I don't think he would take mine. But if I was able to give him some advice, I would say #1: he has to focus on governing the country across the aisle. He has to extend a hand out to Democrats, and work together on areas where there is common ground – issues like infrastructure reform, immigration and the DACA bill. He has to reach across the aisle, because what he must do is get legislative victories that have eluded him so far, since he can't get things through the Senate.
The other thing I would tell him to do is to put down his Twitter, and to stop saying and tweeting in particular rather wild and inflammatory accusations. Yesterday, while this election was going on, Trump made some very wild accusations against New York junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, who has made a name for herself defending women in the military and across the country against sexual misconduct and harassment. She had come out and called for an investigation into the allegations that women have made against the president…What he said about her…is that she had engaged in prostitution, in so many words, in order to get campaign funds. It's those kinds of inflammatory statements that he's made against women, against African Americans, that have so riled up the Democratic base, and so frustrated the Republicans, that we're seeing outcomes like we saw in Alabama yesterday.
So the president really must stop; if he ever needed to pivot…now would be the time. But again, I'm not hopeful that he's going to do that. He's a man in his 70s, he hasn't changed yet, and I don't think we're going to see him change. And I think the loser in all this is his presidency, him and the Republican Party, who are suffering enormously.