The Memo: Five takeaways from the Alabama runoff

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE and the GOP establishment took a hit in Alabama on Tuesday as former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore defeated incumbent Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeDon't import prescription drugs Roy Moore 'seriously considering' another Senate bid GOP leaders dead set against Roy Moore in Alabama MORE (R-Ala.) to become the Republican nominee for December’s Senate general election in the Yellowhammer State.  

Moore won a comfortable victory in the primary runoff despite Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems MORE (R-Ky.) backing Strange.

What were the main takeaways?

Trump backed the wrong man

Trump’s support for Strange always seemed incongruous. 

Strange was seen as a creature of the establishment, both because he had the support of McConnell and because he had been appointed to the seat in the first place by Alabama's scandal-plagued former governor, Robert Bentley (R).

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Strange, who does not have a surfeit of charisma, took the seat that was vacated when Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMSNBC host: Barr 'the most dangerous person' who works for Trump Chris Wallace: AG Barr 'clearly is protecting' Trump Appeals court rules Trump end of DACA was unlawful MORE became Trump’s attorney general.

Trump’s decision to back Strange in advance of the first stage of the GOP primary in early August was a controversial one, even among his allies. 

Stephen Bannon, who was still Trump’s chief strategist at the time, was opposed to the move. Maverick GOP strategist and longtime Trump friend Roger Stone told The Hill on Monday that he believed Trump had been “conned” by liberal-leaning members of his own administration into backing Strange.

Trump himself seemed to have serious misgivings. At a rally for Strange in Huntsville last Friday, Trump even acknowledged that he may be making “a mistake.” The president also emphasized that he would campaign “like hell” for Moore if he became the nominee.

In the end, Trump was not able to pull his favored candidate across the winning line, even in a deeply conservative state that he won by almost 30 points over Democrat Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Memo: Trump faces steep climb to reelection What the Mueller report tells us about Putin, Russia and Trump's election Steve Bullock puts Citizens United decision at center of presidential push MORE last November.

The Moore win is not a lasting political wound for the president. But it is a black eye that he would much prefer to have avoided. Shortly after Strange's loss Tuesday night, Trump — or someone with access to his Twitter account — began deleting tweets Trump had sent praising "Big Luther" ahead of the runoff.

A serious defeat for McConnell

Beyond Strange himself, the biggest loser on Tuesday night was McConnell. The Senate majority leader stood four-square behind Strange. A super PAC associated with McConnell spent millions of dollars to try to sink Moore. 

To many grassroots conservatives, however, McConnell’s support is more of a millstone than an asset. Back in July, only 30 percent of Republican voters approved of his job performance, according to a poll from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm. 

His standing has likely been weakened even further with the Senate GOP’s failure to pass legislation gutting the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare. 

The McConnell-aligned super PAC, the Senate Leadership Fund, released a statement on Tuesday night announcing that it would back Moore in the general election. 

But the firebrand conservative will owe nothing to McConnell and could cause him trouble in times to come.

Bragging rights for Bannon and Breitbart

Moore’s victory was as big a victory for Bannon and the news site he directs as it was a loss for McConnell and the establishment.

Bannon, fighting on the opposite side of Trump, had been clear in proclaiming Moore as the anti-establishment conservative taking on the entrenched powers in Washington.

At a rally for Moore on Sunday, Bannon described McConnell and his allies as “corrupt and incompetent.” 

Introducing a victorious Moore on Tuesday night, Bannon heralded a “revolution” spearheaded by populists who “do not have to raise money from the elites, the crony capitalists, from the fat cats in Washington, D.C., New York City and Silicon Valley.”

Breitbart was just as celebratory. “Blowout in 'Bama,” its main headline proclaimed atop a homepage crammed full of headlines insisting, among other things, that the GOP establishment had been “brought to [its] knees.”

Bannon’s enemies within the GOP, of whom there are plenty, will roll their eyes at what they see as self-aggrandizement. But this was clearly a huge win for the pugnacious strategist and his acolytes.

Could more GOP senators eye the exit?

There was already big political news Tuesday even before the polls closed in Alabama: Incumbent GOP Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerJeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump Corker: 'I just don't' see path to challenge Trump in 2020 Ex-GOP Sen. Corker: Trump primary would be 'good thing for our country' MORE of Tennessee announced that he would retire when his current term ends next year. 

Corker crossed swords with Trump last month when he criticized the president for a lack of “stability” and “competence” amid the uproar over Trump's response to racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Va.

To some seasoned Washington hands, it looked as if Corker was timing the announcement of his exit in order to avoid accusations that he was running scared of a primary challenge in his own state.

The Alabama result will only increase the scrutiny on other GOP incumbents, including Sens. Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget Jeff Daniels blasts 'cowardice' of Senate Republicans against Trump WANTED: A Republican with courage MORE (Ariz.), Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerThis week: Barr back in hot seat over Mueller report Trump suggests Heller lost reelection bid because he was 'hostile' during 2016 presidential campaign Trump picks ex-oil lobbyist David Bernhardt for Interior secretary MORE (Nev.) and Roger WickerRoger Frederick WickerSenate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law Hillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group Senate Commerce chair to renew push for regs on self-driving vehicles MORE (Miss.). They all face threats — albeit of varying levels of credibility — from would-be primary challengers who could attract support from Bannon and allied groups.

Moore could give GOP heartburn

Alabama conservatives rallied to Moore’s banner, but he is a deeply controversial figure renowned for his incendiary statements.

Among his past pronouncements, he has argued that “homosexual conduct should be illegal,” has falsely suggested that former President Obama was not born in the United States and has asserted incorrectly that parts of Indiana and Illinois are under Islamic "Sharia law."

Moore was suspended from his state’s Supreme Court twice: Once for defying a court order to remove a statue of Christianity’s Ten Commandments from the state’s judicial building and, more recently, for instructing the state’s judges, in defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court, to refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

He will be a magnet for media attention, especially if he wins in December. There are plenty of his would-be colleagues in the Senate GOP who will not relish the idea of being forced to answer for some of his positions.

The Memo is a reported column by Niall Stanage, primarily focused on Donald Trump’s presidency.