Sabato: Alabama Senate race now leans Democratic

Sabato: Alabama Senate race now leans Democratic

Nonpartisan election handicapper Larry Sabato has moved the rating for Alabama's special Senate election in favor of Democrats in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against GOP nominee Roy Moore.

Sabato, who leads the University of Virginia's Crystal Ball, has changed the race from a toss-up as national Republicans pull their support and call on Moore to step aside.

Moore is set to square off against Democratic nominee Doug Jones on Dec. 12 in the race to replace Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsRosenstein still working at DOJ despite plans to leave in mid-March Juan Williams: Don't rule out impeaching Trump O'Rourke on impeachment: 2020 vote may be best way to 'resolve' Trump MORE.

Ahead of the GOP primary in August, Sabato had rated the race safe Republican. After the September runoff when Moore defeated Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeDomestic influence campaigns borrow from Russia’s playbook Overnight Defense: Senate bucks Trump with Yemen war vote, resolution calling crown prince 'responsible' for Khashoggi killing | House briefing on Saudi Arabia fails to move needle | Inhofe casts doubt on Space Force Five things to watch in Mississippi Senate race MORE, he changed it to likely Republican.

"The GOP may find a way out of this mess, but the party — thanks to Roy Moore — is on the verge of blowing what was once a sure thing," Sabato tweeted about the ratings change.

Moore has denied the allegations that he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32 and said he has never met a woman who says he sexually assaulted her when she was 16. He has said he's going to remain in the race, despite mounting pressure to drop out.  

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Some Republicans have floated the prospect of a write-in campaign and others have considered expulsion from the Senate if Moore wins.

National Democrats are growing cautiously optimistic about the race, though they remain reluctant to invest in it, arguing that Jones wouldn't benefit from being associated with Washington. 

Some recent polls indicate that Jones has closed the gap with Moore, and others show him with a major lead. A poll from the Senate GOP's campaign arm released Wednesday shows Moore down by 12 points.