ALABAMA, U.S. - The defeat of Republican candidate Roy Moore on Tuesday night, meant something more than just a loss in the special election in one of the nation’s most conservative states.
For the country’s President Donald Trump - who battled allegations of double standards soon after endorsing Moore, while thrashing another Senator who just like Moore, faced allegations of sexual misconduct - the loss was greater.
For Republicans meanwhile, the defeat was potentially devastating as celebrating Democrats hoped that the victory of a Democrat and former federal prosecutor, Doug Jones in the U.S. Senate special election would lead to a sweeping comeback for the party in 2018 elections.
GOP sought to assess blame for the defeat after Jones won the election after a bitter campaign that drew national attention amid sexual misconduct accusations against Moore, who refused to resign despite mounting claims.
Earlier this year, the hardline conservative, Moore, managed to beat incumbent Senator Luther Strange in a primary race - becoming the Republican candidate.
Moore has twice been removed from his seat on the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to abide by federal law.
Republican leaders in Congress, who backed Strange in that race, had pressured Moore to withdraw his candidacy after he faced allegations from several women that he sexually assaulted or pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.
However, Moore denied the allegations and refused to step down.
Now, with his loss, Republicans have narrowed their majority in the Senate to 51-49, while boosting Democrats who hope to retake control of Congress at elections for Congress and next November.
Jones meanwhile became the first Democrat elected to the Senate from Alabama in a quarter-century, and the party sees potential nationwide.
Addressing reporters, Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said, “Democrats can win everywhere and now we are seeing that,” citing recent wins in governors races in Virginia and New Jersey, as well as various local races around the country.
Further, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said the defeat of Moore reflected a distaste among voters for Trump’s policies, which he said help the wealthy and powerful to the detriment of the middle class.
Schumer told reporters, “Things are looking good for us. If they (Republicans) continue to run the government for the benefit of the few special powerful wealthy interests, there will be many more Alabamas in 2018.”
Over the last few weeks, the Alabama campaign split the Republican Party with Trump’s former chief White House strategist, Steve Bannon working hard for Moore as part of his broader campaign against more centrist Republican leaders.
Many Republican rivals of Bannon were quick to blame him for the defeat.
Republican U.S. Representative Peter King said in a post on Twitter on Wednesday, “After Alabama disaster GOP must do right thing and DUMP Steve Bannon. His act is tired, inane and morally vacuous. If we are to Make America Great Again for all Americans, Bannon must go! And go NOW!!”
Meanwhile, Republican U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley said it would be virtually impossible to stop Bannon from supporting candidates to run against Republican incumbents in primary races over the next few months.
Grassley said, “Steve Bannon ... is a private citizen and how are you going to ban a private citizen from whatever he wants to do?”
On Wednesday, Trump tried to minimize the damage to his own credibility.
The President had initially backed Strange in the Republican primary but then endorsed Moore and threw his full support behind him even as other party leaders in Washington walked away.
On Wednesday, the President said on Twitter, “Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a win. The people of Alabama are great, and the Republicans will have another shot at this seat in a very short period of time. It never ends!”
He continued, “The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!”
Trump even took a swipe at the “mainstream meadia,” saying it was 90 percent negative of him.
He wrote, “Wow, more than 90% of Fake News Media coverage of me is negative, with numerous forced retractions of untrue stories. Hence my use of Social Media, the only way to get the truth out. Much of Mainstream Meadia has become a joke!”
Some Republicans came to Trump’s defence and said the Alabama race was a one-off.
Republican Representative Bradley Byrne of Alabama called the race “a purely weird, unique election,” and said, “It had zero to do with Donald Trump.”
Meanwhile, Doug Jones is expected to take office early in January, after the results are certified.
Analysts noted that Jones’ victory has highlighted his success in mobilizing African-Americans voters, who constituted about 30 percent of those voting on Tuesday and according to network exit polls, these voters overwhelmingly voted Democratic.
Late on Tuesday night, Moore refused to concede the race even as Jones led by 1.5 percentage points with 99 percent of the vote counted.
According to results posted in the media, with 100 percent of Alabama precincts reporting, Jones won 49.9 percent of the vote compared to Moore’s 48.4 percent, a margin of nearly 21,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast.