- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Regardless of the winner, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell emerged from Tuesday’s special Senate election in Alabama worse off.

The Republican leader faced the prospect of trading in Sen. Luther Strange, a party loyalist, for either Republican maverick Roy Moore or Democratic candidate Doug Jones — neither of whom is likely to provide the same support for the Republican agenda that Mr. Strange delivered.

In a Senate currently divided 52-48, that could severely complicate life for Mr. McConnell, who is already under intense pressure by conservative activists to deliver on President Trump’s agenda.

Mitch McConnell is certainly the biggest loser here,” said Chris Cox, the head of Bikers for Trump, which backed Mr. Moore. “Mitch McConnell’s status quo is really just kind of collecting a lot of dust. Donald Trump has reinvented this party. It is not the Republican Party of our grandfather.”

Mr. McConnell won’t have to worry until the new year, as Alabama officials have said they won’t certify a winner for at least 10 days, meaning he likely won’t be seated until next year.

“Sen. Strange is going to be here through the end of the session,” Mr. McConnell said.

Mr. Strange has supported Republicans’ tax cut plans and is likely to support whatever year-end spending deal his party’s leaders work out.

It’s likely Mr. Jones would have joined Democrats in opposing the tax bill, and it’s not clear what Mr. Moore would have done — though analysts said he had plenty of reason to want to play the spoiler to Mr. McConnell.

The Republican leader and allied groups had tried to block Mr. Moore from winning the party primary. After that failed, they called on Mr. Moore to quit the race because several women had come forward to say he pursued sexual relationships with them when they were teens and he was a lawyer in his 30s.

Mr. McConnell’s opposition contrasted with President Trump, who swung his support to Mr. Moore after backing Mr. Strange in the primary.

Chris McDaniel, who is considering a primary challenge to Sen. Roger Wicker after nearly defeating Sen. Thad Cochran in the 2014, accused Mr. McConnell of “political posturing.”

“He went after Roy Moore with everything he had. He shot every bullet he could shoot at Roy Moore,” Mr. McDaniel said last week. “None of it worked. So now he is coming back around to save a little political face. I think it exposed him to the people.”

Many voters in Mississippi said Mr. McConnell’s attempts to slow Mr. Moore made them more likely to vote for him and reinforced the belief that national Republicans were opposed to the cultural warrior well before the claims of inappropriate sexual behavior emerged.

Senators in Washington did little to dispel that sense.

Moore will be the gift that keeps on giving for Democrats. It will define the 2018 election — at least 2018,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, said Monday on CNN.

“To think you can elect Roy Moore without getting the baggage of Roy Moore is pretty naive. I wish he would’ve stepped aside,” Mr. Graham said.

Steve Schmidt, who served as a top adviser to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said a Moore win would spell trouble for Republicans.

“For 11 months, we’ll have to endure a child molester in the United States Senate until the American people with their righteous anger will have the ability to weigh in when they walk in voting booths in all 50 states, in every town, in every county in this country and then they get to weigh in on ‘pedophile child molester Roy Moore,’” he said Tuesday on MSNBC.

Mr. McConnell dodged questions about how he will lead the chamber after the election.

“All of those are good questions for tomorrow, and we await the outcome of the Alabama Senate race,” Mr. McConnell told reporters.

Sally Persons contributed to this report.

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