By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
While Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore continues to prolong his senatorial bid past its apparent expiration date, President Donald Trump is already moving on, forging a path for a potential relationship with Alabama’s new senator.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders on Thursday, when asked if Trump thinks Moore should give his concession speech now, said Trump has been clear.
“I think the President’s position is pretty clear. In his outreach to Doug Jones directly, he called and they spoke yesterday,” Sanders said. “He likes Doug Jones and looks forward to meeting him in person, and hopes that he will come and follow through on his commitment to work with the President on some things that they agree on.”
Jones has received congratulatory calls from Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Luther Strange and other leaders in Washington as he prepares to be seated as Alabama’s first Democratic senator in two decades.
On the other hand, Moore is dragging out what is typically a social and political norm for losing candidates to conceded to the winner. Moore’s campaign recorded an impassioned video statement Wednesday night, nearly 24 hours after the race had been called for Jones. His comments more closely resembled one of his campaign rallies rather than post-loss video statement.
“We are indeed in a struggle to preserve our republic, our civilization, and our religion and to set free a suffering humanity,” Moore said. “And the battle rages on.”
Moore again refused to concede and has not yet conceded by the time of publication, despite the fact that his own party leadership — through the President and ALGOP Chairwoman Terry Lathan — have begun to move on, acknowledging Jones’ victory.
“In this race, we have not received the final count to include military and provisional ballots,” Moore said Thursday. “This has been a very close race and we are awaiting certification by the Secretary of State.”
The White House reiterated Thursday that the president is confident in the election and accepts the results.
“I think the numbers reflect that, and I think the President’s outreach shows that,” Sanders said, when asked if Moore “lost fair and square.” “It probably sounds like [a concession] may have — should have already taken place.”
Jones said he isn’t surprised that Republicans, like Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, are reaching out to him to garner his vote. Gardner, who played a hefty role in preventing the National Republican Senatorial Committee from backing Moore, called for Jones to vote with Republicans.
“I would expect a Republican to say that. I expect the Democrats to say I hope does the right thing and vote for Democrats,” Jones said at a Wednesday press conference. “But the people of Alabama expect me to do the right thing and vote for the people of Alabama. So we’re going to see. We’re going to take every issue one step at a time. I want to sit down with folks on both sides of the aisle, both sides of an issue.”
After winning an upset election by a narrow margin in a heavily conservative state, political onlookers and experts are expecting Jones to forge a path as a conservative Democrat. The newly elected senator will serve only a partial term and will face re-election in 2020.
He promised to be a “center-of-the-road” senator.
“I think people are looking for somebody that can find that common ground, somebody to listen to them,” Jones said.
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill said he expects the election results to be officially certified by early January at the latest. Democratic leaders including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York have pressed McConnell to seat Jones before the GOP moves forward with a vote on a controversial tax cut bill.
The future of the bill is unknown and Jones’ vote, if he were to be seated before the vote, could be decisive. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, voted against the Senate version of the bill, and Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said Thursday he won’t vote for the final version developed in conference unless a child tax credit is increased for low-income families, throwing the whip count into chaos.
Jones said he isn’t in a hurry to get to Washington, though he would be ready if he is seated soon.
“I think that both Sen. McConnell and Sen. Schumer are going to end up doing the right thing,” he said. “So we’ll see how to goes, and I’ll go with it either way. I want to get involved as soon as I can, obviously.”