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Alabama Senate race could spell bad news for Donald Trump

Roy Moore's loss was a blow against the far-right populism that swept Donald Trump to power. Credit: AP

The supporters of Roy Moore stood in shock and realised that Alabama had done the unthinkable. This state in the Deep South, one of the most conservative in the nation, had elected a Democrat. That was a stunning political development that left people shaking their heads in disbelief.

So instead of celebrating a famous victory, as they had a year ago with the election of Donald Trump, anti-Establishment Republicans simply stared glumly at the stage, sang patriotic songs, and then repeatedly prayed.

One woman was in tears, telling me that America would now go to Hell, since it had turned its back on Judge Moore and on morality.

A Roy Moore supporter prays during an election-night watch party. Credit: AP

Roy Moore is no ordinary politician. Every election, this former Alabama Chief Justice rides his trusted horse Sassy to the polling station. He is a radical evangelical conservative, holding hostile views on gay and transgender rights, and he advocates constantly for putting God at the heart of American politics.

He has suggested that America was a happier place during the era of slavery.

The thought of Roy Moore as a US Senator appalled mainstream Republicans and Democrats. So the Establishment is relishing this rare victory over the unruly and chaotic forces of populism.

Democrat Doug Jones celebrates his surprise victory in a historically red state. Credit: AP

Moore was defeated not because of his incendiary policy views, but because he stands accused of sexually assaulting a number of young women, several of them teenagers. The former judge says all the women are lying and that he is being targeted by opponents peddling fabricated stories. Enough people believed his accusers to sink his candidacy.

Democrats are euphoric this morning. Hillary Clinton has tweeted her encouragement. "We can - and must - compete everywhere," she wrote in her happiest message since her humiliating loss last year. "Onward!"

It's the best news of 2017 for her demoralised and disorientated party. But Democrats should be nervous. Moore lost because he self-destructed, not because Alabama has adopted a liberal agenda.

For the President this is a moment of acute danger. As 2017 draws to a close, he faces multiple threats. If they coalesce, Trump may not survive his first term.

Moore lost supporters due to sexual assault allegations against him. Credit: AP

The independent counsel Robert Mueller is digging ever-deeper into allegations of collusion with Russia by Trump's campaign team. This dogged investigator has breached the ramparts of the White House, and now appears to be targeting the President and his closest advisers.

And now Alabama - a state that voted for Trump by a huge 30-point margin a year ago - has turned its back on the Senate candidate he backed.

The President faces similar allegations of sexual assault to those that surfaced against Moore. He has survived them so far, but the Alabama earthquake overnight must have been deeply uncomfortable viewing from the White House Residence.

America has been convulsed by both populism and sexual scandal over the last year. They collided in Alabama this week and the big loser was sitting not here, but in the Oval Office.