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Jones Was in a ‘No-Win’ Situation With Trump Vote, Says UAB Political Expert

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Sen. Doug Jones during a January interview in his Birmingham campaign headquarters. (Amarr Croskey, For The Birmingham Times)
By Barnett Wright
The Birmingham Times

No matter which way he voted in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump, Alabama’s Sen. Doug Jones probably couldn’t win, according to Larry Powell, PhD, a political communications expert at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

“It was a no-win situation for him,” Powell said. “He voted for the impeachment, which is necessary to have Democrat support for winning the nomination again. Although that’s assured in advance, he needs the Democrats to be enthused about him in the general election.”

Powell added that Jones’s vote to convict will hurt with Republican voters, as well as make it harder for Jones to win a general election, “but that was going to be hard anyway,” Powell said.

“I think the ultimate impact on it is nothing. It doesn’t change much one way or the other. He was going to get support from Democratic voters anyway, and it was going to be hard for him to get support from Republican voters, assuming anybody but Roy Moore wins the Republican nomination.”

Last week, the Senate vote on both impeachment articles fell short of the required 67 votes in the Republican-dominated Senate to remove Trump from office. Speaking on the Senate floor before the vote, Jones said the sum of the evidence revealed “a picture of a president who has abused the great power of his office for personal gain, a picture of a president who has placed his personal interest well above the interest of the nation.”

Nationally, Jones is considered the Senate’s “most endangered Democrat,” according to an Associated Press article. He faces reelection this fall in a heavily Republican state that Trump carried by 28 percentage points in 2016. In an upset, Jones narrowly won a special election for a vacant seat in 2017 against Republican nominee Roy Moore, who had been accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s.

Conventional wisdom has the two leading Republican candidates challenging Jones in the November 3 general election to be former senator and U.S. Attorney Jeff Sessions and U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne. However, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville is not being dismissed. Predictably, Jones heard from Republicans after his vote.

“By voting to remove President Trump from office, Democrat Doug Jones has given up on serving the men and women of Alabama,” National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) spokesperson Nathan Brand said in a statement. “Jones once again disrespected the overwhelming majority of Alabamians who stand with President Trump.”

Others, however, said Jones did what he has done his entire career—stand on his principles.

“He ignored politics, pressure, and partisanship and cast a vote based on principle and proof,” Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Chris England said.

Powell said Jones’s vote may not have been as tough as the national media says.

“For one thing, there were a number of Democratic senators [from] states that Trump won, and all of them voted to impeach him,” the professor said. “So, there wasn’t as much pressure on them as the national media wanted to indicate. Ultimately, in every situation, all of those Democratic senators have to have enthusiastic support from Democratic voters in order to have a chance to win re-election.”

Jones made it clear that his decision came “after many sleepless nights.” Following the impeachment trial, the senator quoted Atticus Finch, the lawyer in the classic Harper Lee novel “To Kill A Mockingbird”: “The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

Jones also said, “Doing right is not a courageous act. It is simply following your oath.”

Birmingham Times staff writer Erica Wright contributed to this article.