— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) December 13, 2017
Unless you stayed up last night, you woke up this morning to the news that Doug Jones, a Democrat, had won a race for US Senate in Alabama. In a surprising blow, Jones beat Roy Moore and the Republicans by 1.5%, marking the first time a Democrat had won in decades. So, how did it happen?
According to an exit poll by CNN, Jones won 96% of black voters, which made up about 30% of the electorate. Jones also won about a third of white voters. The main force behind Jones’ win was black women, of which 98% votes for him. With 100% reporting, Jones won 49.9% of the vote, Moore won 48.4%, and write-ins got a combined 1.7% of the vote. How does that compare to our predictions?
You can read my full Alabama prediction here. Basically, I gave Jones 45% probability of winning. I said that if Jones doesn’t turn out the black vote in large numbers (which he did), he would lose 49% – 47%. However, I did give Jones a winning scenario. If he could get out the black vote, and if white conservatives stayed home, he could win 48% – 47%. I got the margin just about right, only a 0.5% discrepancy, but I overestimated the write-in votes. Here’s my best guess on what happened: rather than going to a polling station and deliberately voting for something other than the main Republican, most on-the-fence voters decided to just stay home. That would explain why, while Moore outperformed in many counties, his actual voter turnout was way below what he needed. With low Republican turnout and high black turnout, Jones was able to sneak out a win. So, what happens next?
Despite Jones being congratulated by Trump and winning by more than the recount margin (0.5%), Moore has yet to concede this race. In a speech late last night, Moore said that his campaign was “not over yet” and that he was going to wait until all military votes were counted, and then see if he could have a recount. Moore did not mention that some provisional ballots have yet to be counted, which will mostly go for Jones. Even if the provisional ballots favored Moore, it is unlikely that they, combined with military votes (which won’t be 100%, or even 90%, for Moore), will be able to overcome Moore’s 20,000 vote deficit.
So, in summary, Doug Jones won the Senate race in Alabama, mostly because of black voters, particularly black women. This brings the Senate to 51-49, favoring Republicans slightly. Moore hasn’t conceded the race, but it is highly unlikely that he will somehow get 20k more votes.
Jones will serve in the Senate until 2021, where he will likely have been defeated in the 2020 elections. However, there’s still a long way until 2020. His re-election isn’t off the table.
For full election results, go here.