A top national Democrat who worked on Alabama Sen.-elect Doug Jones' campaign said in an interview that the sexual misconduct allegations against Republican candidate Roy Moore weren't the most important factor in Jones' win.
"The key to us having a chance was to detribalize the politics of the state," Democratic strategist Joe Trippi told Vox's Ezra Klein. "If Alabama was reacting to the tribal politics of our times, there was no way for us to win. And in a weird way, the allegations created tribalism again."
The reaction to reports by the Washington Post and other mainstream media outlets that Moore had pursued romantic or sexual relationships with girls as young as 14 while he was in his 30s helped reinforce partisan allegiances, Trippi said, which helps Republicans in a state President Trump carried by 28 points in 2016.
"You either believe the charges or you don't believe the charges," said Trippi. "Suddenly, we're back into Republicans who don't believe the charges; it's the media out to get Roy Moore. He's able to start tribalizing the race. Trump begins coming in with him. And every time that happened, Roy Moore would open a lead."
The former campaign manager for Howard Dean's bid for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination told the liberal outlet that there were other things about Moore that a cross-section of Alabama voters already disliked.
"A lot of what people didn't like about Moore was the fact that he'd been removed from office twice, the fact that he had started a religious charity and taken a million dollars from it after he'd told everybody he wasn't making any money on it," he said. "Those things were totally knocked off the charts by the allegations."
When it came to Republican skepticism about the press and questions about one accuser's yearbook inscription from Moore, Trippi added, the GOP candidate was "able to create all this doubt, push against the mainstream media. He's literally playing right into the Trump handbook."
Trippi told the Washington Examiner earlier this year that Moore was a boon to Democratic fundraising in the Alabama Senate race, even when the national party was still largely on the sidelines.
"Roy Moore is doing more to help us raise money across the board than any help we can get from the committees," he said. "We are literally getting calls from Republican donors in Alabama asking to cut checks."
Democrats outside Alabama did end up getting quietly involved in the race as it became clear Jones could pull off the upset.
Jones defeated Moore by 1.8 points in the December 12 special election to fill the remainder of Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Senate term, although the Republican has yet to concede. When Jones replaces appointed interim incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., the GOP Senate majority will decline to 51-49.