Last Tuesday’s election results in Alabama hold a double-edged sword for both political parties going forward. The Republicans mustered up a clearly damaged candidate to replace Jeff Sessions the next two years while the Democrats found a surrogate who may last for only a brief cup of coffee in the Senate.
Democrat Doug Jones won by default even though he strangely claimed it a win for organized labor. His opponent Roy Moore was derailed by enough personal baggage and a questionable past to fill a freight car. Jones becomes the first Democrat to win a Senate race in the state since 1992.
The media proclaimed the victory as a punch in the nose for President Trump. But it was more an election of default than a victory for either side.
The reality was far different from that portrayed by Democrats and the media. Many Republicans were happy Moore lost. His victory would have produced more headaches than it solved. The charges of sexual improprieties that dogged him would have spilled out in his attempt to be seated in a newly pious Senate that recently kicked Democrat Al Franken to the curb for sexual harassment.
The reality for the Republicans is they dodged a political bullet. Jones will more than likely spend a brief two years in the Senate and be defeated in red state Alabama in the 2020 Senate election for a six-year term.
The Democrats see it far differently. They feel this is their opportunity to dent the South and provide a broader appeal to conservative voters. They base that assumption on voter turnout in the Alabama election that saw major voter enthusiasm from African-Americans and young people who form the core of their party.
Their optimism extends back to the recent gubernatorial elections in Virginia and New Jersey where their party prevailed. But to be pragmatic, GOP candidate Ed Gillespie gained more votes as a Republican running for governor in the state’s history. The heavily Democratic state of New Jersey returned to its voting roots after the aberration of highly unpopular Republican governor Chris Christie.
The winning attitude from the DNC is dubious at best. Earlier in the year, they made lemonade out of lemons in their defeats in Georgia and Kansas special House elections by proclaiming both were solidly Republican districts. Record amounts of cash were squandered in those failed endeavors by Hollywood and other outside support.
The real battle to come will be the 2018 midterm elections. Traditionally, the party out of power makes substantial gains. The deep red state win in Alabama will help fill the Democratic campaign coffers. But the party faces an uphill battle in the Senate where they have many more seats to protect than Republicans.
Not only that, but the economy is roaring back to health and the Republicans will soon pass the largest tax cuts in 35-years without a single Senate Democrat. Those are major triumphs for a president who has been badly damaged by investigations and a hostile media.
The elephant in the room for the Democrats is the rising tide of scandal from the Russian collusion investigation. It appears that the probe is turning on the evidence-lacking former FBI Director Robert Mueller. The foreseen political damage to come may cripple the Democrat’s hopes for 2018.
It appears the FBI collusion itself may become the focal point of American’s interest. That will divert public attention away from perceived momentum the Democrats are communicating to their wealthy donors. All indications point to major eruptions in the Trump investigation that could spell disaster for the DNC as it unfolds next year.
Should the latest revelations lead to a shift in public opinion toward the president, the midterm elections for Democrats could become secondary. The attention-grabbing headlines their compatriots in the media reluctantly post on a daily basis could be devastating. There will be no way to hide the facts via their enabling allies in the Fourth Estate.
The clouds of scandal appear to be reversing direction. A vengeful president has a majority in both Houses and controls the Justice Department and its investigation priorities. The victory dance many envisioned on the left may be postponed indefinitely.
Perhaps the focus of a Democratic resurgence will begin to shift to the presidential election in 2020. If that becomes the case, a long look at possible candidates on their bench is warranted. If the leading candidacies of Biden, Sanders and Warren remain the in place, a McGovern-style disaster may be looming as Trump takes a second term in landslide fashion.