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Alabama Upset: Democrat Doug Jones Beats Roy Moore In Senate Race


A Democrat has been elected to the Senate from Alabama for the first time in a quarter century. Doug Jones' arrival in Washington will shrink the Republican majority in the Senate to 51-49 votes, and that could imperil GOP legislative priorities. This is also a significant loss for President Trump, who had backed the Republican Roy Moore. And let's talk to NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, who is with us.

Hey, Tam.



GREENE: So how's the White House reacting to this?

KEITH: At 6:22 a.m. President Trump tweeted, the reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange - that would be the person who lost in the primary to Roy Moore...

GREENE: Right.

KEITH: ...And his numbers went up mightily, the president says, is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the general election. I was right - exclamation point. Roy worked hard, but the deck was stacked against him - exclamation point.

GREENE: Wow. So even though Trump supported Roy Moore, I mean, quite fervently, he is now making the argument in a tweet that he knew how this would end up all along.

KEITH: Yes, hindsight being 20/20. But you know what this points to is that President Trump endorsed and campaigned for the candidate who lost twice in one special election.

GREENE: Well, the Republican Party as a whole, I mean, was very split over Roy Moore. You had President Trump supporting him. You had members of the leadership, including Mitch McConnell at one point, calling for him to step aside. But then you also had White House former adviser Steve Bannon, who was actively backing Moore. I mean, does this take some wind out of Steve Bannon's sails?

KEITH: Yeah, so there are various perspectives on this depending on whether you are allied with Steve Bannon or not. One Steve Bannon supporter and ally who I spoke with who was an early Trump campaign adviser and later ousted, a man named Sam Nunberg, blames McConnell for this and also Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump, the president's family. And he says the president just lost a vote he didn't have to lose. McConnell didn't lift a finger to help Moore. And then he goes even further to say Mitch McConnell likes being leader. It is irrelevant to him whether he is the majority leader or the minority leader.

Then let's look at another perspective. The folks aligned with Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, are saying this just proves that candidate choices matter, that you can't go with sort of an extreme outlier candidate. And they're blaming Steve Bannon for the loss of this seat. So let's just say that these factions are not done warring and are not taking the same lessons from this special election.

GREENE: Certainly sounds that way. Well, one other thing that matters, as we know, is single votes in the Senate. I mean, we saw that over the debate over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. So what does this mean for Republicans, this narrower majority now?

KEITH: They have a deadline, and that deadline is when Doug Jones is seated. The plan is that this vote won't be certified until very late this year or early next year. Jones won't be seated until next year after the first of the year. And Republicans were already feeling a lot of pressure and were in a rush to pass this tax cut legislation, this tax overhaul.


KEITH: Now, they are in a bigger rush to do that.

GREENE: They've got a window. They feel like they have a window that might be shrinking.

KEITH: And they're racing.

GREENE: Can I just ask you - Congress has been dealing with the issue of sexual harassment. That's something that's been in, I mean, as we've seen, part of the national conversation. Can this vote in Alabama be viewed as a kind of referendum on that?

KEITH: You know, I asked Barry Bennett, who is another former Trump campaign adviser about this, and he leans a little bit more establishment. And here's his quote. He says, this means if you get accused of pedophilia, you're going to lose, which is to say Roy Moore was accused of something different than simply sexual harassment. And in his view, in Barry Bennett's view, Moore's problem was Moore. He says, if there were bullets fired, they were fired by Roy Moore into his own feet.

GREENE: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith joining us this morning. Tam, thanks.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.