Measuring the 'Alabama earthquake': How Doug Jones won

Doug Jones became the first Democrat to win a statewide office in Alabama since 2008, defeating Republican Roy Moore,...

Posted: Dec 13, 2017 3:12 PM
Updated: Dec 13, 2017 3:12 PM

Doug Jones became the first Democrat to win a statewide office in Alabama since 2008, defeating Republican Roy Moore, 49.9% to 48.4%, in a special election Tuesday to fill the Senate seat held by Jeff Sessions before he became Donald Trump's Attorney General. Democrats haven't won a Senate race in Alabama since 1992, back when GOP. Sen. Richard Shelby was still a Democrat (he switched parties in 1994).

The Alabama Senate special election had plenty of unique characteristics: a GOP nominee accused of pursuing relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 30s, who was already a controversial figure in the state, a vote that was held in mid-December, and a Democratic nominee, in the South no less, who outspent his GOP rival by a margin of roughly five-to-one in the general election phase of the campaign.

There were many unique factors that led to Democrat Doug Jones victor over Republican Roy Moore in Alabama

But there was also evidence of some trends that were similar to Democrats' recent victories in Virginia

Favorable trends for Democrats

But the Alabama results also reflect trends in prior elections like the race for governor in Virginia this year that could bode well for Democrats in the upcoming 2018 mid-term elections when control of the House of Representatives, and now the Senate, will be in play.

This emerging Democratic advantage includes energized support from non-white voters, elevated party turnout in metropolitan areas and stronger performance in well-educated suburban communities. At the same time, Republican turnout in white rural counties that gave a significant boost to Donald Trump in 2016 has lagged in two key contests, the Virginia gubernatorial election and Tuesday's Alabama Senate race.

Like Ralph Northam in Virginia, Jones was able to persuade moderate voters in major metro areas and well-educated suburban communities to support the Democrat. And turnout in these areas was higher than in other parts of both states. At the same time, turnout in white rural areas lagged. In both states, non-white voters turned out in greater numbers than they typically do in non-presidential election years.

African-American turnout played an important role in Jones' victory. Of the 20 counties that saw their turnout rise in comparison to the 2014 midterm elections in Alabama, an election comparable in size to the Senate special election, half were rural counties in the state's agricultural "Black Belt" where African Americans make up between 59% of registered voters (Hale) to 82% (Greene). Based on unofficial but complete returns in those counties, Jones received between 69% of the vote (Hale) to 88% (Greene and Macon).

Four of the highest turnout counties contain state's four largest cities: Jefferson County has Birmingham, Montgomery County is home to the state capital, Montgomery, Madison County has Huntsville and Mobile County has Mobile. Both Jefferson and Montgomery counties also have high numbers of African-American voters, 41% and 57%, respectively. Madison, an engineering and research hub with the US Army Redstone Arsenal and Marshall Space Flight Center, has fewer African-American voters, 23%. What it has in abundance is well-off and well-educated voters: it ranks second in all of the state's 67 counties for college-educated adults, 39%, and the median household income of the county's residents is the second-highest in the state. Jefferson and Montgomery counties also have the fourth and fifth highest share of four-year college educated voters, roughly 31% each.

Jones carried Jefferson with 68% and won Montgomery with 72%. Both of those are relative Democratic strongholds and Moore has never had much of a following in those major metro counties. In the 2012 election for the chief justice of the state Supreme Court (which Moore narrowly won), Democrat Bob Vance won Jefferson and Montgomery with 63% and 71%, respectively.

Jones' victory in Madison County stands out. While Hillary Clinton carried both Jefferson and Montgomery in 2016, Trump carried Madison 55%-38%. His margin over Clinton was more 26,000 votes. Jones flipped the county winning 57%-40% over Moore. His margin of more than 19,000 votes in Madison is almost equal to his current statewide margin of 20,715 votes.

Mobile County is one where the median household income and the percentage of college-educated voters are lower than the state average. Some 35% of its voters are African-Americans. Like Madison, this was a county Moore lost in his 2012 state Supreme Court election. But Trump won Mobile 55%-42%. And it had to be satisfying for Democrats to see Jones prevail here 56%-42%.

Increased turnout in metro areas

Taken together, the four big metro counties -- Jefferson, Montgomery, Madison and Mobile -- which have urban cores and suburbs, were by far the biggest contributor to Jones' victory. His combined margin over Moore in these big four was almost 149,000 votes. In 21 largely rural Black Belt counties, Jones' margin over Moore was just over 37,000.

In 13 other suburban and exurban counties, places like Shelby outside of Birmingham, Limestone next door to Huntsville and Baldwin adjacent to Mobile, Jones only lost by about 57,000 votes. In the 29 white rural counties, all won by Moore, his margin over Jones was only 108,000 votes.

And how did these groupings fare in terms of turnout? The big four metro counties combined saw their turnout increase by roughly 6.5% above the 2014 midterm levels. Turnout in the 13 other suburban and exurban counties was essentially even with 2014's levels. In the 21 rural Black Belt counties, turnout was actually down slightly overall. But in those 29 white rural counties, turnout was down 5.4%.

But the picture from Alabama, like the one from Virginia, is an ominous one for Republicans as they prepare for 2018.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 698692

Reported Deaths: 13148
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion953091706
Lake50868931
Allen38607670
Hamilton34028404
St. Joseph33404537
Elkhart26868431
Vanderburgh21948393
Tippecanoe21483212
Johnson17346371
Porter17059297
Hendricks16638309
Clark12600190
Madison12239335
Vigo12109243
Monroe11253166
LaPorte10639204
Delaware10251183
Howard9572211
Kosciusko9009112
Hancock7866139
Bartholomew7807153
Warrick7660155
Floyd7509175
Wayne6849196
Grant6732167
Boone648199
Morgan6341137
Dubois6054117
Marshall5720108
Cass5658102
Dearborn565275
Henry5545100
Noble534983
Jackson489869
Shelby474495
Lawrence4304118
Gibson425788
Harrison425370
Montgomery414686
Clinton413953
DeKalb404183
Huntington373180
Whitley372639
Miami369965
Knox363889
Steuben359657
Putnam350760
Wabash344977
Jasper342246
Adams336852
Ripley332668
Jefferson306779
White306054
Daviess288199
Wells283680
Decatur278092
Fayette276762
Greene268785
Posey267533
Scott258753
Clay250944
LaGrange249670
Randolph233679
Washington228929
Spencer227231
Jennings224347
Fountain207245
Sullivan207241
Starke199452
Owen191056
Fulton189139
Jay184829
Carroll184520
Perry178536
Orange175852
Rush169424
Vermillion165543
Franklin164835
Tipton160743
Parke143516
Blackford132130
Pike129634
Pulaski112445
Newton102434
Brown98940
Crawford96814
Benton94913
Martin82115
Warren78715
Switzerland7688
Union69510
Ohio55411
Unassigned0405

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1039455

Reported Deaths: 18827
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1205361345
Cuyahoga1051802040
Hamilton774991164
Montgomery49566984
Summit44613904
Lucas39235757
Butler37466566
Stark31150890
Lorain23831467
Warren23725291
Mahoning20653581
Lake19760360
Clermont19325226
Delaware17811130
Licking15996205
Fairfield15520195
Trumbull15412458
Medina14693255
Greene14510233
Clark13455287
Wood12575182
Portage12183193
Allen11225229
Richland10924197
Miami10470211
Muskingum8653127
Columbiana8482225
Wayne8463209
Pickaway8394120
Tuscarawas8317239
Marion8302135
Erie7434153
Ross6650145
Hancock6608123
Geauga6462146
Ashtabula6374163
Scioto625699
Belmont5523158
Union551747
Lawrence5439102
Huron5237112
Darke5229121
Jefferson5223147
Sandusky5096118
Seneca5050118
Washington5031107
Athens494854
Auglaize470684
Mercer467984
Shelby453489
Knox4339108
Madison417957
Putnam417698
Ashland409186
Fulton402565
Defiance396396
Brown383955
Crawford3827100
Logan370076
Preble368295
Clinton357459
Ottawa352278
Highland345058
Williams318274
Champaign317355
Jackson305051
Guernsey303448
Perry286949
Fayette276348
Morrow272639
Henry261866
Hardin261163
Coshocton256057
Holmes251799
Van Wert237562
Gallia232146
Pike231031
Adams226251
Wyandot224553
Hocking207057
Carroll187846
Paulding167638
Meigs140938
Noble131837
Monroe128541
Morgan105822
Harrison104836
Vinton81013
Unassigned01
Fort Wayne
Mostly Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 53°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
54° wxIcon
Hi: 60° Lo: 45°
Feels Like: 54°
Huntington
Cloudy
52° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 52°
Fort Wayne
Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 63° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 53°
Lima
Cloudy
51° wxIcon
Hi: 62° Lo: 47°
Feels Like: 51°
Rain showers taper off throughout Sunday evening. Temperatures overnight will drop into the mid to low 40s. Monday, expect more clouds in the morning, with a littler clearer sky in the afternoon. Isolated rain showers possible on Monday. Highs around 60 on Monday.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events