It’s not much of an overstatement to say that the media are enjoying the Alabama upset.
It is, among other things, a great story, one that feels as much like a cultural moment, coming in the midst of a fierce national debate over sexual harassment, as a political verdict. And there was the late-night drama of Doug Jones surging past Roy Moore in the final hour of vote-counting, producing a Democratic victory that once might have been hard to imagine.
And before we get into the finger-pointing, these elements were overshadowed during the raucous campaign: Jones outspent Moore 10 to 1, which translates into a flood of TV ads and a superior ground game. And that, in turn, helped produce black turnout on the same level as when Barack Obama was on the ballot, which no one expected.
But there's no getting around the fact that President Trump, despite his initial reluctance, endorsed Moore, touted him at a rally in nearby Pensacola and recorded a robo-call for him. That makes Trump 0 for 2 in Alabama, since he had backed appointed senator Luther Strange in the primary.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that Moore, without Trump, would have lost by well over 20,000 votes.
At the same time, Moore was a terrible candidate who not only failed to successfully counter the sexual harassment allegations by nine women, but was barely on the trail—and kept getting into trouble, along with his wife and spokesmen, when he was.
Politico didn’t mince words in declaring that Alabama had "administered the most crushing and embarrassing political blow of President Donald Trump’s young presidency."
Nor was it apparently hard for Politico to find an unnamed senior administration official to say that the Jones win "is a big black eye for the president."
The New York Times editorial page, declaring that "sanity reigns," is popping the corks:
"A triumph for decency and common sense in a state that seemed for a time at risk of abandoning both, Mr. Jones's win narrows the Republicans' Senate majority and delivers a deeply deserved rebuke to President Trump."
But it wasn't just the liberal press, which Moore kept attacking, that was exultant. "Only a historically flawed candidate" could have lost, National Review said, "and Roy Moore fit the bill. Twice bounced from the Alabama supreme court, prone to kooky and noxious views, ignorant of the law and public policy, Moore was already a shaky electoral bet even before allegations from multiple women emerged that he had dated or forced his attentions on them when he was a grown man and they were teenagers. Moore's denials were tinny, contradictory, and unconvincing."
The Wall Street Journal editorial page called Moore’s loss "a useful act of political hygiene for the national Republican Party given the accusations of sexual misconduct against the former judge." The Journal also said it was a defeat for the candidate's champion Steve Bannon, and that Moore "was a political self-implosion guaranteed to happen."
The president, while congratulating Jones, took credit—for his original position.
The "reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!"
Stacked against him by whom? He lost an election in one of the reddest of red states.
The upset means that Republicans will have to get by next year—presumably after a tax-cut vote this month--with a 51-49 Senate majority. But the party has also been spared a lengthy ordeal about whether to seat the candidate who badly divided the GOP.