Roy Moore, the Republican defeated Tuesday in the U.S. Senate race in Alabama, turned out to be a deeply flawed candidate and one who traditional Republican voters – including people of faith and suburban men and women – could neither muster enthusiasm for nor support.
Moore had a well-established track record for controversy, low approval numbers in polls and was portrayed in the media as a dirty old man at best and a pedophile at worst. So his election loss should not come as a big surprise.
If there is any small comfort to be found in Tuesday night’s results, it’s that Democrats can’t hang Roy Moore around Republicans’ necks -- or Trump’s for that matter -- in 2018.
Moore drew so much opposition for some of his extreme positions and sexual misconduct allegations, it would be wrong to read his narrow defeat as a repudiation of President Trump or the Trump agenda.
The Trump agenda – where it has been allowed to take hold – is working. The Moore-Jones race wasn’t about the message, which never really got through. It was about the flawed messenger and a war of attrition over personal scandal.
And the victory of Democrat Doug Jones does not signal that Democrats have solved their own deep-seated problems and are about to capture control of the House and Senate in the 2018 midterm elections. That’s wishful thinking by Democratic partisans – not a sober assessment.
The sexual misconduct allegations against Moore surfaced at the worst possible time – as the country was engulfed in a flood of such allegations against prominent men in politics, the entertainment industry, journalism and other sectors.
On top of this, the mainstream media worked hard to make the Alabama Senate election a referendum on President Trump, on Steve Bannon and on the future of the GOP in an effort to hurt the president and the Republican Party with Moore’s unpopularity, arising out of his alleged sexual misconduct.
Let’s be clear. To be sure, Republicans in Congress have issues. They have failed thus far to follow through on a single Trump campaign legislative promise: no immigration reform, no border security, no repeal and replace of ObamaCare, no tax reform (though that appears in the offing), no overhaul of the Deep State that is throwing sand into the regulatory reform gears at every turn.
If the Republican Party fails to show results when it controls both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, there will be hell to pay at the ballot box in 2018, no doubt about it.
But Republican losses for the governorship of Virginia and in the special election for a Senate seat from Alabama were each unique for different reasons.
Virginia has been trending Democratic for almost two decades, especially in areas where turnout will always be greater than in rural parts of the state. And the Republican candidate for governor did not fully embrace President Trump.
And Alabama? Well, count the ways this election went off the rails: no clear, consensus candidate who all Republicans could support after a bitter primary; a concerted effort by the national media and Democrats nationally targeting Moore for defeat; and Moore’s many self-inflicted and politically concocted wounds.
When President Trump has been invited in to campaign for a Republican candidate, where his message is welcomed and received, and where the candidate and President Trump are aligned, good things have happened. But bad things happen – as took place in Alabama – when the president and the candidate have been opposed by the Republican establishment.
At some point, unless the establishment GOP desires to spend decades in the wilderness of not controlling Congress, the Republican National Committee and leaders in Congress must begin to align their efforts with the Trump White House. Find the candidates who are great advocates for a stronger, more prosperous, America First agenda and who are good campaigners able to draw voters from across the political spectrum.
This year is ending with strong economic numbers, solid optimism among the public for a brighter future, and a president who deserve the credit for much of it – despite incessant attacks from the anti-Trump media.
The Trump agenda – where it has been allowed to take hold – is working. The Moore-Jones race wasn’t about the message, which never really got through. It was about the flawed messenger and a war of attrition over personal scandal. That’s not an agenda that Democrats can duplicate across the country, even though they are not above trying to do so. And its certainly a lesson Republicans can learn from.