President Donald Trump went all in on Republican candidate Roy Moore in the Alabama special election. But after his agenda was dealt a serious setback when Moore lost to Democratic candidate Doug Jones on Tuesday night, Trump reacted to the news on Twitter with uncharacteristic calm.
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!
Trump widely broadcasted his support for Moore in tweets and rallies after endorsing him in a Dec. 4 phone call. In fact, Trump's late support for Moore seems to have motivated the Republican National Committee to start funding his campaign again in the week before the election. The group had distanced itself from the candidate after he was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women (Moore has denied those allegations). America First Action, a Trump-aligned super PAC, also gave over $1 million in funding in the latter days of the Alabama Senate race.
Given Trump's habit of using Twitter to express unfiltered rage, one might have expected that the president would go on an angry tweetstorm after the election was called for Jones. Instead, he posted one simple concession tweet just after 11 p.m.
Trump's reaction stood in stark contrast to Moore's. "[R]ealize when the vote is this close that it's not over. And we still got to go by the rules about this recount provision," he said in a speech to his supporters around 10:30 local time Tuesday night. If Moore were to officially call for a recount — which he is allowed to do — he would have to front all of the costs for it.
Earlier this month, Moore was happy to share that he had received the endorsement of the president; on Dec 4., he tweeted that he was "thankful for President Trump's support." But he wouldn't be the first unsuccessful conservative candidate that Trump supported this year, either — on Oct. 5, the president tweeted out an endorsement for Ed Gillespie, who was campaigning to be Virginia's next governor.
"Ralph Northam, who is running for Governor of Virginia, is fighting for the violent MS-13 killer gangs & sanctuary cities," he wrote about the Democratic candidate, who ultimately won. "Vote Ed Gillespie!"
Ironically, Gillespie has since placed some of the blame for his loss on his relationship with Trump. In an interview on David Axelrod's podcast "The Axe Files," he called the president a "big factor" in his defeat.
"If you're not standing up for President Trump, for his supporters, they see you as not for him," he said. "And it's not that I was not for him, it's just that I'm not against him ... It's a tough tightrope to walk, and it may not be walkable, to be honest with you."
Trump could arguably be at fault for Moore's loss, too. Exit polls in the Alabama special election showed that a roughly equal number of voters expressed approval and disapproval of the job Trump is doing as president, with 48 percent of voters on each side, as measured in the exit polls. That's worth noting, considering he won the 2016 election by a margin of 28 points in Alabama. While 51 percent of special election voters said that Trump was not a factor in their decision, that still leaves around half of voters who may have been thinking about the president when they cast their ballots. In fact, 19 percent said that they voted in part "to express opposition to Donald Trump" — of that 19 percent, according to exit polls, 97 percent voted for Jones. Jones ultimately won the election by a margin of 1.5 points, according to The New York Times.
"A vote for Roy Moore is a vote for Donald J. Trump," Steve Bannon said at a rally in September. If that's the case, both Trump and Moore suffered a big defeat on Tuesday, despite the calm the president is projecting on Twitter.