May 9, 2021

Republican Tommy Tuberville is projected to unseat Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in Alabama

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Sen. Doug Jones, the lone Democratic Senator from the Deep South, is projected to be unseated in the Alabama Senate race by former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, according to Decision Desk HQ.

Polls in Alabama closed at 7 p.m. local time and 8 p.m. Eastern Time on Election Day. 

The candidates

Jones, a former federal prosecutor, narrowly defeated scandal-plagued Republican candidate Roy Moore in a hotly contested December 2017 special election to replace former Sen. Jeff Sessions, who left the seat to become Trump’s attorney general. 

Jones is possibly best-known for successfully prosecuting the four white supremacists responsible for bombing a church and killing four girls in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. 

Tuberville, who has previously coached for Auburn University and the University of Cincinnati, defeated Sessions by a 20-point margin in the July 14 primary runoff to officially become the GOP nominee. 

A political newcomer, Tuberville ran his campaign largely on a platform on standing in lockstep with President Donald Trump. And partly thanks to Trump’s complicated and fraught history with Sessions, he earned Trump’s powerful endorsement in the runoff. 

The stakes

In addition to winning back the White House, regaining control of the US Senate for the first time since 2015 is a top priority for Democrats, and would be a major accomplishment toward either delivering on a future president Joe Biden’s policy goals or thwarting Trump’s second-term agenda.

Currently, the US Senate is made up of 53 Republicans, 45 Democrats, and two independents who caucus with Democrats. Democrats need to win back a net total of four seats to have a 51-seat majority (if Biden wins, his vice president would also serve as president of the Senate and would be a tie-breaker vote). 

And now, the US Senate is gearing up for a high-stakes confirmation battle to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died at age 87 from pancreatic cancer on September 18. Within hours of her death, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky pledged that Trump’s nominee for the high court would receive a vote on the floor of the Senate, and Trump said the day after that he would name a replacement “without delay.”

Ginsburg’s death threw a stick of dynamite into an already supercharged election shaped by both a deadly pandemic that has so far claimed over 230,000 American lives. 

Alabama’s Senate race was a rare bright spot in an otherwise tough campaign year for Senate Republicans. 

Jones pulled off a miracle with his 2017 win, and faces a much tougher path to re-election than he did three years ago and with far less help from outside groups.  

Tuberville might have benefited from Trump’s endorsement, and from having no legislative record to attack, and importantly, not facing any major scandals or accusations of sexual misconduct. 

See Insider’s full guide to the race for the US Senate here

The money race

Jones has amassed a sizeable cash advantage over Tuberville, who only won his runoff in July.

Jones has raised $26.7 million so far this cycle, spent $24.8 million, and has $4 million in cash on hand as of September 30, according to the Center for Responsive Politics and Federal Election Commission records.

Tuberville has raised $8.2 million, spent $6.7 million, and has around $1.5 million in cash on hand. 

What the polling said

A recent poll of the race conducted by Auburn University at Montgomery found Tuberville leading Jones by a comfortable 11 percentage point margin, 54% to 43%. 

Another survey conducted by Morning Consult from September 11-20 found Tuberville leading Jones by 18 points, 52% to 34% among likely voters. 

A recent internal poll conducted for Tuberville’s campaign by Moore Information found Tuberville ahead of Jones by 15 points, 55% to 40%, while an internal poll conducted for Jones’ campaign by FM3 Research found Jones leading Tuberville by one point, 48% to 47%. 

See the live coverage and full results from the U.S. presidential election.

What experts said

The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections rated the race as “leans Republican” while Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics rated it “likely Republican.”

FiveThirtyEight‘s US Senate forecasting model showed Tuberville with a 82% chance of defeating Jones in November. While the forecast predicted a victory for the football coach, Tuberville was only forecasted to win 53% of the popular vote share.

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