Not looking good for Luther Strange (or Pres. Trump) in Alabama [UPDATED – Moore Wins]

Judge Roy Moore has opened up a nice lead over Sen. Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican Senate run-off election. With about one-quarter of the precincts reporting, Moore is roughly 17,000 votes ahead (out of about 120,000 counted), for a 57-43 lead. That lead is consistent with, though perhaps at the higher end, of what recent polling has indicated.

Moore was expected to win. However, Trump might have though his Friday night speech in Huntsville would at least close the gap to a respectable number. It does not appear to have had that effect, though we need to see more returns before reaching any firm conclusions.

Watch this space.

UPDATE: Now, about 35 percent of the precincts are in. Moore leads 58-42.

IT’S OVER: Moore is the winner. So says AP. It called the race with about half of the vote counted and Moore up by 14 points, 57-43. Even with President Trump’s help, Strange couldn’t make the race competitive.

We, or rather our Alabama correspondents, have discussed the reasons for this outcome. See here, for example. Quin Hillyer’s analysis is here.

The big question is whether Strange’s walloping will influence Trump’s behavior going forward. I don’t know the answer. However, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that the result will widen the wedge between Trump and the Senate leadership.

Trump might well blame Mitch McConnell for dragging him into this losing cause in which Trump ended up supporting a flawed establishment candidate over the candidate who more closely resembled Trump — or at least Trump’s image (Judge Moore is far more conservative and far more principled than Trump).

Will this misadventure keep Trump from backing other Republican incumbents whose prospects are significantly better than Strange’s were? Will it encourage him to “triangulate” — that is, to cut deals with Chuck and Nancy without regard to the views of McConnell and other GOP stalwarts.

I don’t know. I do know that Trump hates losing and those he perceives to be losers.

FINAL REPORT: It looks like Strange managed, in the end, to avoid a double-digit defeat. With nearly all of the votes counted, the margin is 54.6 to 45.4.

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