"Republicans really have no way to win tonight."
That was Brit Hume's way of describing Alabama's special U.S. Senate election. In the end, by a razor margin, Republicans lost in the traditional way - at the ballot box.
For the next three years, Democratic nominee Doug Jones will hold a U.S. Senate seat that Republicans had counted on to confirm President Trump's judicial nominees and pass his agenda. Their margin is one seat smaller - and Democrats are already one seat closer to winning the majority in 2018.
Moore was sunk by credible allegations he had fondled a 14-year-old girl in the late 1970s, at a time when he had a habit of high school girls who happened to be less than half his age. And during the campaign, Moore offered inconsistent and contradictory defenses for his conduct, and otherwise strove to confuse the situation rather than protest his innocence forthrightly. In short, he was caught lying. And that is a rather telling indicator about whether those old charges were true or false.
Even so, Democrats had no margin for error. Their brand is so toxic in Alabama they very nearly blew it anyway. Hundreds of thousands of loyal Republicans voted for Moore reluctantly, and that was almost enough to propel him to the Senate.
This race was clearly all about Moore. And so, the only question to ask in its aftermath is, who is to blame for this terrible candidate's nomination?
We can certainly blame former White House advisor Steve Bannon and his legion of brick-throwers, who got behind Moore without doing the basic research that would have illuminated his weaknesses. When Bannon says he intends to destroy both political parties, it seems he's only half right. He is destroying the GOP and elevating a moribund Democratic Party with his sloppy, shoddy efforts to build up his own national political machine.
But it would be a mistake to lay blame solely with the conservative movement's new ultramontanists. The blame falls equally, if not more, on the arrogance of the Senate Republican leadership.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his team made a fateful decision to interfere in the primary. They went all in for recently-appointed Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., the way they would for any other incumbent Republican. Never mind that Strange had never won an election. Never mind his appointment was badly tainted. Never mind even that the man who appointed Strange was, partly as a result, forced to resign as governor.
The GOP establishment got behind the deeply unpopular Strange and even convinced President Trump to support him. McConnell's SuperPAC spent more than $10 million to get him to the runoff, which he lost to Roy Moore.
If not for this interference, it is likely Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ala., a conservative congressman from northern Alabama, would have beaten Moore in the primary runoff. One can thus attribute Moore's nomination and defeat as a result of the D.C. establishment trying to pick Alabama's next senator instead of letting Alabamians do it themselves.
And the Republican establishment's culpability goes even beyond that. Even before the sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against him, Moore was an unpopular and highly controversial figure in Alabama. If even he was able to win a primary by default simply by running against the Washington GOP, that suggests the Washington GOP is doing something wrong.
REPRINTED FROM THE COLORADO SPRINGS GAZETTE