Smart politics by POTUS. For years the GOP has regarded Joe Manchin as the likeliest Democrat to cross the aisle on big votes, but Manchin rarely delivers. Yeah, he’s from a very red state but he’s also a household name, having served as governor for five years before serving now as senator for seven. He’s not an easy Democrat for the GOP to oust, which gives him more freedom to vote how he likes despite having to answer to West Virginians. Doug Jones, though? Even after last night’s momentous upset, most Alabamians probably couldn’t pick him out of a lineup. He ran a good campaign but, let’s face it, he won because he’s Not Roy Moore, not because he’s Doug Jones. And he’ll have only three years to convince voters back home to give him a full six-year term when most of them will be inclined to pat him on the back and hand his seat back to a Republican.
Which is to say, in the span of 24 hours, Jones has gone from a very likely semi-anonymous loser to arguably the single most important man in the Senate, the red-state Democrat who stands to benefit most from working with Republicans. Recognizing that, POTUS put aside his butthurt at having been rebuked last night and reached out to him today with kind words. Smart! He’s not going to get Jones’s vote on any new abortion bans, but on infrastructure or revisiting trade deals? Sure. Quite possible. Might as well make friends.
In fact, Jones will find that he has a lot of Republican friends, having spared them the ordeal of figuring out what to do with Senator Roy Moore:
CORKER says Doug Jones winning last night was “A great night for America…”
— Frank Thorp V (@frankthorp) December 13, 2017
A debate that began last night and will roll on for awhile: How much was Moore’s defeat about him and how much was it due to political “gravity”? Obviously it was mostly about him; virtually any other prominent Republican in the state would have been expected to defeat Jones easily. Lyman Stone crunched the numbers from the exit poll and concluded that Moore, despite his image as a warrior for Christianity, actually underperformed the generic Republican candidate among evangelicals by about 10 points. Even a poor-by-normal-standards showing among evangelicals should have given him a 50,000-vote margin over Jones. But the scandal stories stung. Without that, despite all of his other baggage, Moore almost certainly wins.
But it wasn’t all about Moore. Here’s a tidbit from Monmouth’s new poll that’ll have RNC members building bomb shelters for next fall:
In a look ahead to 2018, Democrats currently hold a 15 point advantage on the generic Congress ballot. If the election for House of Representatives were held today, a majority (51%) of registered voters say they would vote for or lean toward voting for the Democratic candidate in their district compared to 36% who would support the Republican.
To put that in perspective, the GOP’s average generic ballot lead before the giant red wave of 2010 was 9.4 points. A 15-point cushion is grotesquely huge, although not that surprising when the president’s job approval has been stuck in the 30s for ages despite a humming economy. It’s not just the generic ballot data either: Harry Enten looked at the results from Democrats’ special election wins so far this year and sees a blue wave developing based on that data too. Even a slightly less terrible candidate than Moore could have pulled it out last night in Alabama despite those headwinds working against him, but there *are* headwinds even in the reddest states. Jones doubtless benefited from them.
Here’s Jones discussing the phone call with Trump followed by him noting that he hasn’t received a concession from Moore yet, which should surprise no one. Exit question: Why did the populist insurgent Trump win while the populist insurgent Moore lost? Ramesh Ponnuru has some theories.
Senator-elect Doug Jones describes "very gracious" phone call from President Trump, says Trump invited him to the White House as soon as he gets to Washington. pic.twitter.com/8zqqHZmTid
— Pat Ward (@WardDPatrick) December 13, 2017
Doug Jones says he hasn't spoken with Roy Moore yet: "I'm going to let him make that decision." (via ABC) pic.twitter.com/5um0YocvWK
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) December 13, 2017