The Unimaginable Just Happened in Alabama

I ended my live blog of the Alabama senate election last night with this tweet:

The unimaginable happened and now we’ll spend the next few days trying to figure out why. The easiest answer is to suggest that it is never a good idea for a party to back a candidate who faced credible charges of being a pedophile. But as I mentioned yesterday, Roy Moore’s problems went much deeper than that. On the other side of the ticket, Democrats had a great candidate who ran an excellent campaign. Any analysis that doesn’t take all of that into account will be flawed. That is why I was always bullish on the idea that Jones had a chance.

One of the big media fails leading up to this election was a theme that emerged suggesting that African American voters in Alabama were unenthused about the race and weren’t mobilizing.

Six of 10 black voters stopped by a New York Times reporter in a shopping center last week didn’t know an election was even going on, a result the reporter took to mean overall interest was low. TheWashington Postdetermined that black voters weren’t “energized.” HuffPost concluded that black voters weren’t “inspired.”

I worried as I saw those reports that, if Moore won, a scapegoat was waiting in the wings to be blamed—even as white voters overwhelmingly backed a suspected pedophile. But it turns out that all of those reports were wrong.

If you wonder how that happened, take some time to read this Twitter thread from Al Giordano that was posted yesterday afternoon following a conversation he had with a source on the ground from the Mobile County NAACP. It ends with this:

One of the big things we’ll be hearing a lot about in the coming days is what this special election tells us about the 2018 midterms. I think it’s safe to say that nothing we saw yesterday challenges the idea that a big blue wave is forming. But there are some specifics in this race that won’t be replicated everywhere—primarily as captured by the particular candidates.

One obvious takeaway is that, given the importance of turnout in Alabama, the blue wave is likely to be more potent in state-wide races for the Senate and governorships. The impact of turnout might be more muted in heavily gerrymandered districts.

When it comes to senate seats that Democrats talk about targeting in 2018, at the top of the list are always Arizona and Nevada. But Julian Castro jumped out boldly on another one right after the networks called the Alabama race.

Like Alabama, Texas is a southern state with an even larger non-white population that, if mobilized, could turn a state-wide election. While not as severe as Roy Moore, the favorability ratings of Cruz (even in the red state of Texas) are under water.

Keep in mind that the one Republican senator who was not targeted for a challenge by loser Steve Bannon is Ted Cruz. That puts him firmly in the category of the insurgents, who took a beating last night in Alabama. The unimaginable could happen in Texas next November too.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60 .