On the Right, Some Excuses for Roy Moore, Some Realism as Well

Roy Moore

Conservatives are delivering a mix of reactions to Republican Roy Moore’s stunning loss to Democrat Doug Jones in Tuesday’s special election for U.S. senator from Alabama, ranging from recognition that Moore was a deeply flawed candidate, to blaming “establishment” Republicans, to conspiracy theories that the election was fixed.

Moore, the extremely anti-LGBT, anti-abortion former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice, lost to Jones in the race to fill the remainder of Jeff Sessions’s term in the Senate, Sessions having resigned to become Donald Trump’s attorney general. Moore was dogged in the campaign not only by his hard-right views (among other things, attempts to block marriage equality that got him removed from the court) but by allegations that he had sexually abused teenage girls when he was in his 30s. He denied the allegations, but they apparently made a difference to voters. The final vote was 49.9 percent for Jones and 48.4 percent for Moore, with the remainder being write-ins.

“An incredible amount of evangelical Christians said this was a bridge too far,” Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, told CNN’s Don Lemon early this morning. Moore, Mohler continued, “lost because so many evangelicals didn’t show up. That’s the big story … what didn’t happen. You didn’t have any major pastors or evangelical leaders [in Alabama], not a single one, willing to support Roy Moore.

“Given the percentage of evangelicals in Alabama, it’s inconceivable that a candidate supported by them could lose. They would not and could not vote for a pro-abortion candidate, and they would not and could not vote for Roy Moore.”

Guy Benson, political editor for conservative website Townhall, placed the blame for the loss squarely on Moore: “How could Moore lose a seemingly unlosable race in the reddest of states? By being so noxious and extreme on issues that many Republicans couldn't stomach him, and by being a credibly accused child molester and creep. A majority of Alabamians (51/44) believed the sexual allegations against him were definitely or likely true — including strong majorities of independents and women, who turned heavily against Roy Moore. Plenty of Republicans who felt the same way didn't bother voting. That's how you lose an Alabama Senate seat as a Republican, a nigh impossible task.”

Steve Bannon, who campaigned heavily for Moore, was in Benson’s sights as well. “Perhaps no one should take a bigger bow than former White House aide Steve Bannon, whose loud and bitter boosterism led to the nomination and survival (until last night) of basically the only Republican in the state of Alabama who could possibly have lost this race. Democrats must be on their knees praying that Republican voters will nominate even more of Bannon's unpalatable candidates next year.”

Bannon’s minions at Breitbart, the right-wing media group he heads, were making excuses for him. On the radio show Breitbart News Daily, Breitbart editor in chief Alex Marlow said to Bannon, “You're so in people's domes that people regardless of if it actually helps their own agenda, they're going to spend most of the day gloating because they're so happy that it's a perceived loss for you, Steve. But I just wonder if that's a sophisticated reaction, if it's an accurate reaction, or if it's just sort of emotional.”

Meanwhile, Bannon’s former boss, Donald Trump, was making excuses for himself, saying he supported interim Sen. Luther Strange in the Republican primary because he knew Moore couldn’t win the general election. However, that didn’t keep him from giving a full-throated endorsement to Moore and denouncing Jones as the general election neared. Other conservatives, such as Matt Drudge, were also saying Strange would have won. But Strange, while definitely far-right in ideology, was considered too “establishment” by Bannon and others. Breitbart regularly called Strange a “swamp monster,” a reference to the federal government being a swamp that Trump supporters are counting on him to drain.

The American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, who’s right up there with Moore as a homophobe and transphobe, blamed those establishment Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said he believed Moore’s accusers. Fischer sent several tweets this morning:

Fischer’s also questioning the credibility of the woman who says Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16:

Some Twitter users on the right are screaming fraud.

Moore has yet to concede defeat, telling supporters Tuesday night that the race isn’t over because it’s so close and absentee military votes have yet to be counted. However, they’re unlikely to bring the difference within the half-percentage-point range that would trigger an automatic, state-funded recount. If there is no automatic recount, Moore could still request one, but he’d have to pay for it.

Moore also told his supporters to remember that God is in control. But today from an unlikely source, conservative Christian Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and failed presidential aspirant, told him not to count on God for a victory:

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