One of U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s jobs is to make sure the Republicans hold onto their Senate majority. That majority just got even slimmer with the upset election Tuesday of Democrat Doug Jones over Republican Roy Moore in the Alabama Senate race.
How did Gardner respond? By telling Jones he should vote with Republicans.
Here’s Gardner’s full statement in his role as chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
Tonight’s results are clear — the people of Alabama deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate. I hope Senator-elect Doug Jones will do the right thing and truly represent Alabama by choosing to vote with the Senate Republican Majority.
The idea here is that Alabama’s Senate seat by rights belongs to the Republican Party. They just got saddled — by Steve Bannon and their own primary voters — with a candidate who was once banned from the local mall because he was so creepy around teenage girls.
Update: Doug Jones laughed.
Gardner came out against Moore after multiple women said Moore dated and in some cases sexually assaulted them when they were teenagers and he was a local prosecutor. Gardner cut off funding to Moore from the NRSC. He said Moore should step down, and that if elected, the Senate should expel him. But as The Denver Post reported, it didn’t seem like Gardner was doing much to secure support from other Republican senators for an expulsion effort, so this result is surely a relief to Gardner.
At the same time, Gardner certainly is getting grief in some quarters for not fighting harder for the seat. The Republicans now have a one-vote majority in the Senate. The Republican National Committee threw some money at Moore after President Donald Trump endorsed him, despite previously cutting off funding.
Jones doesn’t seem to have won primarily by converting Republicans to his cause. Rather, turnout in heavily African-American Democratic strongholds was much higher than expected. In addition, some 22,000 people cast write-in votes. According to exit polls, just 6 percent of people who want the Republicans to control the Senate voted for Jones.
Contrast Gardner’s statement with that from the Senate Leadership Fund, which focused on the need for Republicans to find better candidates and severely dragged Bannon, the former presidential adviser and Breitbart publisher who backed Moore over Luther Strange, the man appointed to fill the vacancy left when Jeff Sessions became attorney general.
“This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running,” Senate Leadership Fund CEO Steve Law said. “Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco.”
Founded by Karl Rove, the Senate Leadership Fund is a super PAC dedicated to maintaining Republican control of the Senate.
Also note that when the SLF decided not to spend money on Moore, officials justified the decision by saying Moore would win without their help.
“This is Alabama, not New York or California,” SLF spokesman Chris Pack told AL.com in an email. “Democrats would first need to demonstrate this is an actual race before anything is considered.”
This doesn’t mean Alabama is turning purple, but it might bode well for other Democrats in 2018.
At FiveThirtyEight, Nate Silver compared the results to Republican Scott Brown’s victory against Democrat Martha Coakley in the special election in Massachusetts in 2010 to replace Sen. Ted Kennedy, who had died in office. Brown lost the seat at the next regular election in 2012 to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a progressive Democrat, but 2010 ended up being a Republican wave year across the country.
“Both wins were pretty narrow,” Silver wrote. “And despite extenuating circumstances, neither would probably have occurred if the political winds weren’t blowing strongly — toward Republicans in 2010 and toward Democrats in 2017.”
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