*The following article was originally published on CBSNews.com.
Democrat Doug Jones' shocking upset in a state where Republicans regularly win in statewide elections by margins of 20-30 points was improbable -- even with the avalanche of controversy burying Republican nominee Roy Moore since explosive allegations about his sexually predatory behavior emerged in November.
If 2017 has taught us anything so far, it's to expect more surprises.
Even after other Republicans rejected Moore's candidacy and tried to get him to abandon his Senate bid, former White House strategist Steve Bannon threw everything he had at the race. Bloomberg's Josh Green chronicled Bannon's efforts to save Moore's campaign after the allegations surfaced -- most significantly by coaxing Sean Hannity not to call for Moore to end his campaign. But Bannon continued to rally with Moore all the way up to election eve, attacking the establishment and casting the former state Supreme Court justice as an anti-establishment hero. Jones' unlikely victory means Bannon's longer-term onslaught against Mitch McConnell is at best stalled, and at worst, derailed. So, the civil war within the GOP continues, but this was a key battle loss for Bannon's side.
Jones' win may also help moderates, too. Republicans' thin majority of 51-49 obviously makes policymaking in 2018 harder, but it lends moderates like Collins, McCain, Murkowski a little more leverage.
And then there are the women. The rebuke of Roy Moore was led by women who turned away from the GOP – from national leaders like Republican National Committee member Joyce Simmons who resigned over the party's renewed support of Moore to the women voters in Alabama who chose Doug Jones over Moore by a margin of 16 percent. While Republican leaders may be relieved that Moore won't be the living symbol of a GOP that has failed women, they still have Mr. Trump, and the accusations against him remain somewhat unresolved. It remains to be seen how the experiences of these women and the renewed telling of their stories impacts his agenda, while a growing chorus of women calls for his investigation, and even resignation.
The diminished GOP majority means if Democrats can hold our bloc together in the Senate, we should have a bigger voice on issues ranging from extending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) to defending Obamacare, and from investing in infrastructure to defining the overall budget. It's always a big "if" when the margins are this razor thin, and admittedly Doug Jones will likely have some incentive to side with Republicans from time to time, but this week's win certainly makes it easier to see Democrats holding the line on major votes in the coming year.
Democratic candidates need to understand the personality and values of the electorate in their home states and build campaigns that safeguard what matters to the locals, just as Jones did in rejecting for much of the race overt national support. It was a savvy move for the Jones campaign to decline to engage on the Obama and Biden robocalls until the eleventh hour and to publicly look to local surrogates like Teri Sewell and others to help get out their voters.
The Jones campaign's hyper-local focus did not preclude intense – if quiet – national support, though. And grassroots and institutional donors who gave to Jones and supporting operations to help close out the race will now be asked for help in the big fights in 2018, even if the races fall in what previously would have been thought to be un-winnable places. Where Jon Ossoff's defeat in GA-06 may have deflated small-dollar donors earlier this year, Doug Jones' victory will likely have Democrats looking to places like Arizona next, where Sen. Jeff Flake's departure is making room for Trump diehards to run, and inspiring Democrats to post a challenge.
Women delivered a resounding rejection of Moore, who drew just 41 percent to Jones' 57 percent support among women voters in Alabama. Both Republicans and Democrats ignore these results at their own peril. But there seems to be a broad national trend that should be troubling for the GOP. The latest Gallup poll shows a drop of 5 points among women – and 7 points among white women – who self-identify as Republicans.
Watch Lynda's interview here.