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GOP Strategist: Many White Conservative Women In Alabama Got 'Fed Up' With Moore

RACHEL MARTIN, BYLINE: And I'm Rachel Martin at WBHM in Birmingham, Ala., where voters have picked Doug Jones to be their new senator. Jones won by a very narrow margin, 49.9 percent of the vote - or about a percent and a half more than his opponent, Republican Roy Moore. Moore is the former chief justice of the Alabama state supreme court who has been facing multiple accusations of sexual abuse.

So how did this political upset happen? We're joined in our studio by Jeff Vreeland. He's a Republican political strategist in Birmingham who works for The Prosper Group, an organization here that supports Republican candidates.

Jeff, thanks so much for coming by.

JEFF VREELAND: You're welcome.

MARTIN: How are you reading the outcome of this election?

VREELAND: I think like many Republicans, waking up shocked. I think many Republicans, yesterday, when they went to the polls, were very excited and thought, you know, this is going to be a close election, but we will still pull this out. But yesterday's voter turnout showed a different result.

MARTIN: What do you think tipped the scales for Doug Jones in the end?

VREELAND: I think it was turnout in the urban areas. So you look at the four bigger counties. The urban vote turned out very highly for Doug Jones. You look at the exit polling. But even just where our turnout was. That pushed the scale over. That had to be there for Doug Jones, and it had to be coming from minorities and also inner cities. And it did. And it did not do that for Trump in '16. It wasn't there. And it turned big time for Doug Jones.

MARTIN: As, you know, though, establishment Republicans abandoned the candidate. They abandoned Roy Moore. That made a difference?

VREELAND: It did. And I think one of the things that we're seeing this morning is that African-American women came to the rescue of Doug Jones. And I think that absolutely occurred. But one of the narratives that is being missed is that the so-called soccer mom demographic also abandoned the GOP.

Normally, in Alabama, it's about 4 out of 5 soccer moms will vote in the GOP primary. And last night, it was only 2 out of 3. So we saw a narrative last night where a lot of established Republicans were fed up. And they - it had gone too far, and they voted for Doug Jones.

MARTIN: Soccer moms - we're talking about middle-class, white women mothers...

VREELAND: Absolutely.

MARTIN: ...Who have been reliably Republican in this state. They defected, do you think, because of the sexual abuse allegations against Roy Moore?

VREELAND: I think the exit polls show last night that it was a factor. It wasn't the most important factor. It definitely was a factor, though. And I believe that when you put those combination of things together, that's what caused a lot of Republicans to either stay home or vote for Doug Jones.

MARTIN: So we've heard Roy Moore say that he's going to fight this.

VREELAND: Absolutely.

MARTIN: He has yet to concede. He says he wants a recount. He would have to pay for that out of his pocket.

VREELAND: He would, yes. So within Alabama, if you're within a half a percent, it triggers an automatic recount. But we're about a percent and a half off. So he would have to pay for it. I know they're exploring it. And they're talking with lawyers. And they're talking with Alabama GOP to see what their options are.

MARTIN: So if we assume that is not going to happen, what does this mean for Roy Moore and his political future?

VREELAND: Well, Roy Moore will never go away. He's run for office for 20 years. This is his third statewide run. He's run for governor twice and lost. He's now run for United States Senate and lost. He has lost all statewide races that are non-judicial. But I don't think he's going to go away.

In Alabama, we have statewide elections next year. Qualifying is open for another couple of months. And I definitely think you'll see Roy Moore's name stay within the political atmosphere. Now, the question will be is, if he will stay as a Republican or if he will start running as a third party?

MARTIN: How do you think this win will affect politics writ-large in this state? Is it just a thing that happened because there were so many exceptional circumstances in this election? Or do you think it gives Democrats a foot in the door?

VREELAND: I think it absolutely gives Democrats a foot in the door. One of the many, many things coming out of this election - the investment, not only infrastructure and staff, but more importantly in energy in the Alabama Democratic Party is going to be very interesting to see. Like I said, we have elections in, you know, six or seven months on the primary side of things. But we have a general election in less than a year.

And as it currently stands, the Alabama Democratic Party just does not exist. They have very few volunteers, very short on cash. But with a $10 million influx in money and staff and, like I said, most importantly, energy, it's going to very interested to see if that narrative passes down to the State Alabama Democratic Party.

MARTIN: So you think it gives Democrats a foot in the door. How does this vote - the election of Doug Jones, how does it recalibrate what Republicans do now?

VREELAND: I think, in Alabama, it gives them the opportunity to widen the tent. You saw a lot of divide within the state party, mainly along the lines of younger generation versus the older generation. The Alabama Young Republicans denounced Roy Moore. They called for him to be removed from the ballot. And I think it gives them the opportunity - them being the Alabama Republican Party - to expand the tent and start bringing in some of these new voters, these new ideas and this influx of energy into the Alabama Republican Party.

MARTIN: Jeff Vreeland is a Republican political strategist in Birmingham. Jeff, thanks so much for talking with us this morning.

VREELAND: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.