Alabama's women wrote the verdict on Roy Moore

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Women drew the line at Roy Moore.

There are many reasons why Moore became the first Republican nominee to lose an Alabama Senate race since 1992 on Tuesday night, including a strong turnout by African-American voters and a lack of enthusiasm among Moore's base.

But with Moore denying multiple allegations of inappropriate behavior with teenage girls, and attacking his accusers against the backdrop of a national reckoning on sexual misconduct, the most striking aspect of the vote may have been the unmistakable message sent by the women of Alabama about how much was too much.

Fifty-eight percent of Alabama women voted for the winner, Democrat Doug Jones, including 35 percent of white women, according to exit polling. While that latter figure might not sound like much, it’s more than twice the 16 percent of white Alabama women who voted for President Barack Obama in 2012, the last presidential race in which exit polling was conducted.

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Scenes from inside Doug Jones and Roy Moore election night parties
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Scenes from inside Doug Jones and Roy Moore election night parties

A supporter of democratic U.S. Senator candidate Doug Jones cries as Jones is declared the winner during his election night gathering the Sheraton Hotel on December 12, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Doug Jones defeated his republican challenger Roy Moore to claim Alabama's U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Supporters react as results show a tight race between Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore during his election night party in the RSA Activity Center on December 12, 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Moore is facing off against Democrat Doug Jones in the special election for the U.S. Senate.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Supporters celebrate after media began to call the election for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones, at his election night party in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S. December 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Marvin Gentry)

Supporters react as results show a tight race between Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore during his election night party in the RSA Activity Center on December 12, 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Moore is facing off against Democrat Doug Jones in the special election for the U.S. Senate.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Supporters of democratic U.S. Senator candidate Doug Jones celebrate as Jones is declared the winner during his election night gathering the Sheraton Hotel on December 12, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Doug Jones defeated his republican challenger Roy Moore to claim Alabama's U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Supporters react as results show a tight race between Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore during his election night party in the RSA Activity Center on December 12, 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Moore is facing off against Democrat Doug Jones in the special election for the U.S. Senate.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Democratic U.S. Senator elect Doug Jones greets supporters during his election night gathering the Sheraton Hotel on December 12, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Doug Jones defeated his republican challenger Roy Moore to claim Alabama's U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Supporters of Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore watch for results at an election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 12, 2017. Democrat Doug Jones scored a victory Tuesday in a fiercely contested US Senate race in conservative Alabama, dealing a setback to US President Donald Trump, whose candidate could not overcome damaging sexual misconduct accusations. With 92 percent of precincts reporting, former prosecutor Jones secured 49.5 percent of the vote compared to Roy Moore's 48.8 percent, CNN and other networks reported.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Supporters react as results show a tight race between Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore during his election night party in the RSA Activity Center on December 12, 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Moore is facing off against Democrat Doug Jones in the special election for the U.S. Senate.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Supporters of democratic U.S. Senator candidate Doug Jones celebrate as Jones is declared the winner during his election night gathering the Sheraton Hotel on December 12, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Doug Jones defeated his republican challenger Roy Moore to claim Alabama's U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Supporters of Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore hug as they watch results at an election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 12, 2017. Democrat Doug Jones scored a victory Tuesday in a fiercely contested US Senate race in conservative Alabama, dealing a setback to US President Donald Trump, whose candidate could not overcome damaging sexual misconduct accusations. With 92 percent of precincts reporting, former prosecutor Jones secured 49.5 percent of the vote compared to Roy Moore's 48.8 percent, CNN and other networks reported.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 12: Alabama Democrat Doug Jones poses for a selfie as he celebrates his victory over Judge Roy Moore at the Sheraton in Birmingham, Ala., on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. Jones is faced off against Judge Roy Moore in a special election for Jeff Sessions' seat in the U.S. Senate. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Supporters of Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore wait for results at an election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 12, 2017. Democrat Doug Jones scored a victory Tuesday in a fiercely contested US Senate race in conservative Alabama, dealing a setback to US President Donald Trump, whose candidate could not overcome damaging sexual misconduct accusations. With 92 percent of precincts reporting, former prosecutor Jones secured 49.5 percent of the vote compared to Roy Moore's 48.8 percent, CNN and other networks reported.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Supporters of democratic U.S. Senator candidate Doug Jones celebrate as Jones is declared the winner during his election night gathering the Sheraton Hotel on December 12, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Doug Jones defeated his republican challenger Roy Moore to claim Alabama's U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions.

(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

A supporter holds a sign at Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore's election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman

A supporter holds up a "Bikers For Trump" sign as he attends Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore's election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. December 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

A supporter of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore prays after media began to call the election for rival candidate Democrat Doug Jones, at Moore's election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. December 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

A costumed supporter checks results on her phone at Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore's election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. December 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

A supporter holds a sign during Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones' election night party in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S. December 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Marvin Gentry)

Supporters of Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore watch for results at an election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 12, 2017. Democrat Doug Jones scored a victory Tuesday in a fiercely contested US Senate race in conservative Alabama, dealing a setback to US President Donald Trump, whose candidate could not overcome damaging sexual misconduct accusations. With 92 percent of precincts reporting, former prosecutor Jones secured 49.5 percent of the vote compared to Roy Moore's 48.8 percent, CNN and other networks reported.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

Supporters of Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore hug as they watch results at an election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 12, 2017. Democrat Doug Jones scored a victory Tuesday in a fiercely contested US Senate race in conservative Alabama, dealing a setback to US President Donald Trump, whose candidate could not overcome damaging sexual misconduct accusations. With 92 percent of precincts reporting, former prosecutor Jones secured 49.5 percent of the vote compared to Roy Moore's 48.8 percent, CNN and other networks reported.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

A supporter wearing a "Bikers For Trump" emblem on his hat attends Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore's election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. December 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

"Make America Great Again" hats lie on a table at Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore's election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. December 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

Supporters pray during the invocation at Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore's election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. December 12, 2017.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Bachman)

Supporters of Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore wait for polls results at an election night party in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 12, 2017. Alabama voters were casting the last ballots Tuesday in a pivotal US Senate contest between a Republican dogged by accusations he once preyed on teenage girls and a Democrat seeking an upset win in a deeply conservative southern state.

(JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

MONTGOMERY, AL - DECEMBER 12: A woman wears an 'I Voted' sticker as she awaits the arrival of Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore for his election night party in the RSA Activity Center on December 12, 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Moore is facing off against Democrat Doug Jones in the special election for the U.S. Senate.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Supporters recite the Pledge of Allegiance as they await the arrival of Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore for his election night party in the RSA Activity Center on December 12, 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Moore is facing off against Democrat Doug Jones in the special election for the U.S. Senate.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Supporters react as results show a tight race between Republican Senatorial candidate Roy Moore during his election night party in the RSA Activity Center on December 12, 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama. Mr. Moore is facing off against Democrat Doug Jones in the special election for the U.S. Senate.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Democratic Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones acknowledges supporters at the election night party in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S., December 12, 2017. REUTERS/Marvin Gentry
Attendees react to election results during an election night party for Roy Moore, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Alabama, in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. Democrat�Doug Jones�delivered a stunning upset defeat to Republican�Roy Moore�in a U.S. Senate race in deep-red Alabama that had split the GOP even before its controversial nominee was accused of inappropriate conduct with teenage girls. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
An attendee uses her phone during an election night party for Roy Moore, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Alabama, in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. Democrat�Doug Jones�delivered a stunning upset defeat to Republican�Roy Moore�in a U.S. Senate race in deep-red Alabama that had split the GOP even before its controversial nominee was accused of inappropriate conduct with teenage girls. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees pray during an election night party for Roy Moore, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Alabama, in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. Democrat�Doug Jones�delivered a stunning upset defeat to Republican�Roy Moore�in a U.S. Senate race in deep-red Alabama that had split the GOP even before its controversial nominee was accused of inappropriate conduct with teenage girls. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Attendees react to election results during an election night party for Roy Moore, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate from Alabama, in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S., on Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017. Democrat�Doug Jones�delivered a stunning upset defeat to Republican�Roy Moore�in a U.S. Senate race in deep-red Alabama that had split the GOP even before its controversial nominee was accused of inappropriate conduct with teenage girls. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
BIRMINGHAM, AL - DECEMBER 12: Democratic U.S. Senator elect Doug Jones (L) kisses his wife Louise Jones (R) during his election night gathering the Sheraton Hotel on December 12, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Doug Jones defeated his republican challenger Roy Moore to claim Alabama's U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Supporters of Republican senatorial candidate Roy Moore sing gospel after election results show Moore lost, in Montgomery, Alabama, on December 12, 2017. Democrat Doug Jones scored a victory Tuesday in a fiercely contested US Senate race in conservative Alabama, dealing a setback to US President Donald Trump, whose candidate could not overcome damaging sexual misconduct accusations. With 92 percent of precincts reporting, former prosecutor Jones secured 49.5 percent of the vote compared to Roy Moore's 48.8 percent, CNN and other networks reported. / AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
BIRMINGHAM, AL - DECEMBER 12: Democratic U.S. Senator elect Doug Jones greets supporters during his election night gathering the Sheraton Hotel on December 12, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Doug Jones defeated his republican challenger Roy Moore to claim Alabama� U.S. Senate seat that was vacated by attorney general Jeff Sessions.�(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)� (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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Outside a Montgomery polling place on Tuesday afternoon, Sandra Davis, a self-described independent, said she was tired of her state being the “laughingstock of the nation.”

“One reason,” she said, when asked why she voted for Jones: He’s “not Roy Moore.”

Related: Doug Jones is apparent winner in Alabama Senate race

To get to the point where women could put him over the top in one of the most conservative states in the country, Jones needed everything to go right. Just 13 months ago, Donald Trump took 62 percent of the vote in Alabama.

But every factor lined up in his favor. Moore was a uniquely flawed candidate. Many national Republican leaders — including Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby — abandoned him after the allegations of sexual misconduct arose. Democrats, as they have been in elections across the country since last November, were energized by the chance to strike a blow against President Donald Trump and his agenda.

A twice-deposed former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore defeated establishment favorite Sen. Luther Strange in a September primary run-off that badly divided the Republican Party both in this state and at the national level.

He became the latest focal point in a long-running war between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and former White House strategist Steve Bannon, who has made a mission out of toppling sitting senators in primaries and trying to oust McConnell from his job. But Bannon hadn't counted on a group of women stepping forward to accuse Moore of sexually abusing them when they were teenagers, and he hadn't counted on the effect those accusations would have on the women who went to the polls on Tuesday.

38 PHOTOS
Reaction to Doug Jones winning the Alabama Senate race
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Reaction to Doug Jones winning the Alabama Senate race

Democrat Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore to claim deep-red Alabama Senate seat on Tuesday, December 12.

**Click through the slides to see how lawmakers and notable figures reacted.**


(REUTERS/Marvin Gentry)

Congratulations to Doug Jones on a hard fought victory. The write-in votes played a very big factor, but a win is a… https://t.co/QLFQ88UaLM
Tonight, Alabama voters elected a senator who'll make them proud. And if Democrats can win in Alabama, we can --… https://t.co/m18Cuh5Iuc
Doug Jones. Thank you, Alabama. You’ve elected a man of incredible integrity, grit, and character. A fighter for wo… https://t.co/sOLcmRMQOk
Selma, Lord, Selma. It’s no coincidence that Selma, where blood was shed in the struggle for voting rights for Blac… https://t.co/loo5c2cuo5
Congrats, @GDouglasJones, on your win in Alabama! This is a victory for showing up, fighting to the end, and standing for what’s right.
Doug Jones wins!! In spite of suppression efforts. In spite of Trump. In spite of Bannon. In spite of fear monger… https://t.co/XqWjqqqKiR
Tonight Alabama is sending a powerful message across the country. The American people will fight back against bigot… https://t.co/x99pI2BK4o
Decency wins
Congratulations to my friend @GDouglasJones. He'll be a great colleague. President Trump went all in for Roy Moore,… https://t.co/tSfAQj6qZ0
Welcome to the Senate Doug Jones!
Thankfully, today enough Republicans chose country over party. Tomorrow we must redouble our efforts to support can… https://t.co/IMQrXqyUrF
Thank you Alabama and thank you Doug Jones. https://t.co/o8NXvTrTUX
Congratulations Alabama!!!! https://t.co/jfgPTMqYPp
Suck it, Bannon
God don’t like ugly.
Hot DAMN
Thank you, Alabama!
Thank you for restoring my faith in humanity, Alabama. And thank you for fighting for what’s right, @GDouglasJones.… https://t.co/K8aHz18wpX
Could it be true? Did the bad guy lose this time?
Fifty years after the murders of Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Carol Denise McNair at the… https://t.co/ITWvv7nQzM
Charles Barkley finally won the championship!! @GDouglasJones
Congratulations to Senator-elect Doug Jones and thank you to the people of Alabama. Now let’s begin the hard work o… https://t.co/aGuWLNwGzw
Look forward to calling @GDouglasJones a colleague in Congress. Congratulations, Senator-Elect. The people of Alaba… https://t.co/LKUKhjlPt2
I am grateful to the women who had the courage to come forward. Because of them and so many others like them, we ar… https://t.co/w8HTiubCPH
And Steve Bannon strikes again. Any other republican primary candidate would have won tonight. GOP shoots themselve… https://t.co/d15CIDhEcH
“Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but… https://t.co/FyRu6hCRjM
Winners tonight: Black voters, Democrats, Establishment Republicans, Ivanka Trump, Black voters, decency, Black vo… https://t.co/l5wQZ7wXbx
Big win for America. Congrats to Doug Jones. Rejection of Trump and hatred. Game on! 🍻
THANK YOU, ALABAMA!
The voices of bigotry and intolerance are loud, but tonight the people of Alabama were louder. Congratulations Se… https://t.co/WQn9AMRM9C
This puts the US Senate in play in 2018. NEVER EVER GIVE UP ON ANY STATE
Shout out to every last one of you who knocked on doors this week
Alabama Rocks!!!!!
Way to go Alabama! Let’s @BoBikesBama !!
1) MCConnell deserves a lot of the blame for Alabama. Mo Brooks would have won by 20% of the vote, and McConnell in… https://t.co/dWq1Y47SP1
Congratulations, Doug Jones. You were a great US Attorney, and you ran a terrific campaign. You deserve this win. I… https://t.co/NSfv16OTwx
Truly a sad day in Alabama. This is the result of Republican voter suppression. Way to go Richard Shelby👍 you led 2… https://t.co/1BbcHLCP5K
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In that way, the result held silver linings for establishment Republicans in Washington. They had warned that Moore, who had long since alienated many moderate GOP voters in the state with his firebrand politics, would leave the seat vulnerable to Democratic takeover.

“Steve Bannon managed to do the impossible, and he should’ve forever secured a place in the Democratic consultant hall of fame,” Josh Holmes, a former McConnell chief of staff and campaign manager, said in an email exchange with NBC News. “It was thought to be damn near impossible for a Republican to lose the state of Alabama, but Steve Bannon hadn’t run a race there.”

Tick-tock: A historic election as it unfolded

Bannon didn’t have an official role with Moore’s campaign, but he was the most forceful advocate for the Republican nominee in national politics, and he headlined two rallies for the GOP nominee in the last week. On Friday, Trump, Bannon's old boss, visited Pensacola, Florida, about 15 miles from the Alabama border, and issued a full-throated endorsement of Moore that carried across the state line on cable television. His voice was also ignored by most of the state's women.

In fact, among both men and women, only 49 percent of Tuesday’s voters said they approve of the way Trump is handling his job, according to exit polling. And 52 percent said he wasn’t a factor in their decision in the Senate race.

Jones’s coalition was built on women, African Americans, college graduates and younger voters — many of them in and around the metropolitan centers of Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile. Black voters accounted for 28 percent of the electorate, a slightly higher figure than their share of the population.

Moore won men, whites, less-educated voters and older voters. But he had trouble turning them out in the numbers he needed to win.

Zac McCrary, an Alabama-based Democratic pollster, credited Jones with doing the leg work to make sure he could take advantage of an energy among Democrats that has been evident in special elections across the country since Trump won the presidency.

“The Jones campaign built a real infrastructure and funded it,” McCrary said. “So they poured gasoline on the fire that was already going.”

But white women who typically support Republican candidates were a key factor in the outcome. Some crossed party lines to vote for Jones and many others simply declined to go to the polls.

That’s a message that will resonate all the way into the midterm elections of 2018, and beyond.

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