A prosecutor of Klansmen captures Jeff Sessions’s old seat, as the Republicans’ Senate majority shrinks

Roy Moore watching results

INITIALLY the mood at Doug Jones’s election-night party was genial but uneasy. Guests knew Mr Jones was closer to winning one of Alabama’s Senate seats than any Democrat in a quarter-century; they also knew that Mr Trump won the state by 28 points, and the last two Republican Senate candidates won 63.9% and 97.3% of the vote. So they smiled, and made all the right hopeful noises, but around the corners of their eyes you could see them bracing for disappointment.

Mr Jones’s victory was narrow—he took 49.9% of the vote to Mr Moore’s 48.4%, with the remaining 1.7% going to write-in votes—but decisive. He flipped every one of the counties that Mr Trump won by 10 points or less last year, banking large numbers of votes in the counties housing Alabama’s five biggest cities, and running up sizable margins in Alabama’s majority African-American “black belt”.  Mr Moore, meanwhile, underperformed Mr Trump’s results from November 2016 in every one of Alabama’s 67 counties, faring especially poorly in those with large numbers of educated voters.

At a rally in south-eastern Alabama the night before the election, Steve Bannon, Mr Trump’s former chief strategist and the architect of his presidential campaign, headlined a motley crew of far-right Republicans who offered a cavalcade of bilious, resentment-filled speeches promoting Mr Moore while pandering to Alabamians’ prickliness. “Nobody comes down here and tells Alabamians what to do,” said Mr Bannon, a Virginian, speaking after a Texan and several Midwesterners. Other speakers attacked George Soros, Islam and “the lynch-mob media”. No name got longer and more sustained boos than Mr Shelby’s. Two days before the election he went on a prominent talk show just to say, “I wouldn’t vote for Roy Moore…The state of Alabama deserves better.” Mr Moore’s wife defended her husband against charges of bigotry by revealing that “one of our attorneys is a Jew.”

White evangelicals—Mr Moore’s core supporters—comprised a smaller share of the electorate this year than in past elections. Some of them stayed home, or even voted for Mr Jones, despite vehemently disagreeing with his pro-choice position on abortion. Rushton Mellen Waltchack, a Christian and lifelong Republican from Birmingham, compared Mr Moore to “a televangelist who falls from grace,” and said she could not bring herself to vote for him. “He makes statements that to me don’t represent Jesus in the Bible…What does it say about us as a party if we continue to choose policy over character?”

Read the complete article on The Economist magazine web site.

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Trump’s National Security Pitch

Mr Trump held his own military-themed campaign events this week, blending vague promises to increase defence spending with fact-trampling claims about a dangerous world which fails to “respect” America. Quizzed on foreign policy at a forum in Virginia Beach, Mr Trump seemed to believe that North Korea will “soon” have an aircraft-carrier (which is news to Korea-watchers) but that he will “very simply” oblige China to rein in North Korea. Turning to the fight against IS, he suggested that finding common cause with Russia against Islamic extremism would be “nice” and work better than Mrs Clinton’s tough talk about President Vladimir Putin, adding: “Putin looks at her and he laughs.”

A televised forum in New York, hosted by NBC News and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a charity, pointed up the downsides of Mrs Clinton’s extensive record. A Republican member of the audience charged that she had “corrupted” national security by mishandling e-mails at the State Department, and a Democrat asked sceptically about her “hawkish” foreign policy. Mrs Clinton’s hawkish instincts are sincere: several times as Secretary of State from 2009-13, she was readier to use force as a tool of geopolitics than was her boss, Barack Obama. Mr Trump played a strongman who is above mere details, declaring that under Mr Obama “the generals have been reduced to rubble” and that America has “the dumbest foreign policy”. Asked about praise from Mr Putin, he said the Russian president: “has very strong control over his country,” while Mr Obama runs a “divided country”—as if democracy is rather a nuisance. He vowed to rebuild a “depleted” military while being “very, very cautious” about using it. At its core, Mr Trump’s pitch is simplistic, chin-jutting, isolationism with a strong dose of wishful thinking.

Read the complete article on The Economist magazine web site here.