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What the Democratic victory in Alabama means for Washington

On Tuesday night, Democrat Doug Jones emerged as the victor of the contentious special election for Alabama Senate, beating Republican Roy Moore by just one point. In the deep red state, which Donald Trump won by as much as 28 points last year, it is evident the primary reason for Jones’s stunning victory is due to the impact of the accusations leveled against Moore in recent months, which alleged that he sexually harassed and assaulted multiple underaged women.

However, as Republicans look ahead to 2018, the consequences of the special election cannot be overlooked, as they are incredibly telling of the deep fractures that exist within the GOP. While most of the Republican establishment disavowed Moore during the campaign due to the deplorable allegations leveled against him, Moore received unequivocal support from the alt-right populist wing of the Republican Party led by Steve Bannon.

{mosads}This anti-establishment, alt-right wing of the Republican Party is incredibly well represented in deep red states such as Alabama, and was fundamental to shaping President Trump’s rhetoric throughout 2016, ultimately helping him win the presidency.  Moore’s defeat will certainly deepen the fractures within the GOP, making the relationship between the alt-right sect of the party and the Republican establishment more antagonistic than ever before.

The undeniable presence of the anti-establishment, alt-right movement will continue to divide the Republican Party, and will certainly hurt each Republican candidate’s chances in the 2018 midterm elections. In the days since the election, we have seen the Democrats attempt to nationalize the result and use it to put the Republican majorities in the House and Senate in play for 2018.

Given the salaciousness of the allegations against Moore, though, and the unprecedented level of national exposure that this particular special election received as a result of these accusations, Jones’s election is arguably more of a personal rejection of Moore than of Republicans in Congress or President Trump.

This is not to say that Democrats do not have a fighting chance to take either the House or the Senate, but for Democrats to successfully compete in states like Nevada where Republicans are potentially now vulnerable, Democrats need a centrist, pro-growth message that is focused on more than mere resistance to President Trump.

In terms of Democratic strategy entering 2018, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, the new chairman of the Democratic Governors Association and a dark horse for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, argues that President Trump and individuals within the Republican Congressional Caucus like Moore will be so toxic come 2018 that Democrats will not even need to mention him by name in order to benefit from the backlash that they are creating.

Inslee argues that Democrats “are going to lead with an economic message” in 2018 and will not “be distracted by his divisiveness.” Under this strategy, Democrats will succeed by not making the 2018 midterms elections “ideological,” but a distinct, “rejection of chaos.” Personally, I believe that deep unpopularity of both major parties provides an opportunity for Democrats to build upon Jones’s victory and succeed in 2018 in states that are even less reliably conservative than Alabama.

I agree in essence with Inslee though that in order to do so, Democrats must lead with an economic message — one which is pro-growth, pro-job creation, and centrist — that emphasizes traditional Democratic Party values and is fundamentally different from the message that the far left and most progressive voices in Washington are championing.

Douglas E. Schoen (@DouglasESchoen) served as a pollster for President Clinton. A longtime political consultant, he is also a Fox News contributor and the author of 11 books, including “Putin’s Master Plan: To Destroy Europe, Divide NATO, and Restore Russian Power and Global Influence.”

Tags Alabama Congress Democrats Donald Trump Doug Jones economy Election Politics Republicans Roy Moore Steve Bannon voters Washington

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