Politics didn’t stay local Tuesday night in the special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat in Alabama, as the neck-and-neck race attracted the interest and participation of many major national political figures.
The involvement paid off handsomely for some, but the people who bet big on a candidate dogged by sexual misconduct allegations ended up likely wishing for their money back.
Here’s a look at what the Alabama upset means for some of the race’s biggest winners and losers.
Doug Jones: The list starts with the literal winner. Jones had a historic win in this special election, making him the first Democrat to win a Senate seat representing the state in 25 years. The race drew national attention for many reasons, and politicians and pundits from far and wide were paying attention to the race. Now those eyes will follow him as he heads to Washington.
Sen. Mitch McConnell: The Republican Senate majority leader from Kentucky had a tough time handling his party’s nominee, first saying Moore should step aside, and then later saying he was “going to let the people of Alabama make the call.” One of the biggest questions that would have followed a Moore win was whether the Senate Ethics Committee would investigate the sexual misconduct claims surrounding Moore. McConnell told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on “This Week” that the committee “will have to consider the matters that have been litigated in the campaign, should that particular candidate win.” That’s no longer a question with which he’ll have to grapple.
Sen. Jeff Flake: The $100 the Arizona Republican donated to the Jones campaign likely did more than buy a few lawn signs. By publicly supporting the Democrat, Flake reaffirmed his plan to support “country over party,” which he proclaimed in October when he issued a scathing rebuke of the president while announcing he will not run for re-election. Flake was one of the highest profile Republicans not only to effectively speak out against Moore, but to go so far as to support his opponent, Democrat.
Sen. Richard Shelby: The senior senator from Alabama didn’t go as far as Flake, but made it clear he didn’t go for his party’s nominee in early voting. Shelby said his state could “do better” than Moore, telling CNN this weekend he “wrote in a distinguished Republican name” instead.
Roy Moore: Even though he hasn’t admitted defeat yet, Moore lost. He’s apparently not headed to the Senate and the accusations against him of sexual misconduct are widely known. Besides having a tough time distancing himself from those accusations and the label of being an alleged child molester, Moore also ran against his controversial past statements that were brought to national attention and will readily trail him whatever path he pursues.
President Donald Trump: It took a while for Trump to make a full-throated endorsement of Moore but, eventually, he did. And while White House press secretary Sarah Sanders initially said he wouldn’t have time to travel to Alabama before the election, he managed to find time to hold a campaign event across the Florida border, in a media market that includes Mobile, Alabama.
Moore is officially the second loser that Trump backed in this race, after initially supporting Sen. Luther Strange and then throwing his support behind Moore after Strange’s primary loss. Trump is now tweeting that he always knew Moore would lose the election, but his ultimate support of Moore makes Trump a loser here.
Steve Bannon: He may want to rethink his strategy. The former White House chief strategist came out strong for Moore in this special election race, speaking to crowds in two rallies in the final week of the campaign. If he’s going to try to keep a role as a so-called conservative kingmaker, he’ll need to pick some winning candidates in the midterms.
Ronna McDaniel: The chairwoman of the Republican National Committee initially said the accusations against Moore were “very concerning” and pulled the group’s financial support for Moore in the race, only to reverse course and back him after Trump threw his support behind Moore. McDaniel’s first instinct to trust her gut ended up being right, but the RNC ultimately got burned after following the leader of their party.
McConnell: Despite avoiding the headache of having to deal with Moore in the Senate, McConnell didn’t come out of the special election unscathed. The tepid walk-back of his condemnation of Moore dented any moral high ground he gained from the initial rebuke.
And beyond that, he will surely suffer the ire of conservative Republicans who feel he led the party astray in his candidate picks. McConnell backed Luther Strange as the primary candidate, who was then beaten by Moore, who was then beaten by Jones.
Just as some news organizations Tuesday started to call the race for Jones, Fox News host Sean Hannity posted a tweet saying McConnell “deserves a lot of the blame for Alabama,” going on to say that Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., would have been a better pick for their ticket.