Donald Trump tumbles to earth with a bump

Trump at rally in Pensacola, Florida - 8 December Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Trump had urged supporters to vote for Mr Moore

For Roy Moore it looks like the next time he saddles up his horse it will be to ride off into the sunset.

The maverick Christian conservative who enjoyed the full-throated support of Steve Bannon, the slightly-more-tempered endorsement of Donald Trump and the outright antipathy of certain sections of the GOP, has failed in the reddest of red states. So how much should be read into this defeat?

Needless to say - and understandably - most of the attention will fall on the humiliation this represents to Donald Trump, but the bigger loser is his erstwhile White House head of strategy Steve Bannon. Alabama was to be the Petri dish for next November's mid-term elections.

Alabama would show that rabble-rousing, right-wing, anti-establishment, swamp-draining insurgents could take on the Republican Party grandees in primary races and then cruise to victory afterwards in the main election against the Democrats.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Roy Moore's (R) defeat is a blow to Steve Bannon (L) and his insurgent campaign

Well Mr Bannon got one out of two. Yes, Roy Moore beat Luther Strange to win the Republican nomination - but he lost where it mattered. And that is calamitous for Mr Bannon.

This is a result where you can be sure the Republican establishment will be savouring a Bannon defeat almost as much as the Democrats are rubbing their eyes in wonderment at their victory.

Mr Bannon, the self-declared Leninist wanting to rip down the walls of the establishment, looks a weaker man today. Not finished by any means, but certainly undermined.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionWhat the Alabama upset will mean for Donald Trump's agenda

Donald Trump, aside from finding himself on the losing side - which his opponents will revel in - will now find getting legislation through the Senate much more difficult. There will now be 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats.

It means the awkward squad in the GOP now have much more leverage over legislation. Senators Flake and Corker, who are standing down and loathe Donald Trump, will need to be courted rather than abused by the president. Those of a more liberal bent might seek to rein in the president's more far-reaching proposals.

Mortal after all

Mr Trump's gut instinct got him the Republican nomination against all the odds and won him the presidential election.

But on Alabama he's now found himself on the losing side - twice. First backing Luther Strange and then, after he lost, getting behind - and more importantly sticking with - Roy Moore even when it became clear he was a political liability after repeated allegations of sexual abuse against teenage girls emerged.

Why this matters is that for two years now Donald Trump seems to have defied the laws of political gravity. Say what you like, insult who you like, do what you like, and when Newton's Law is suspended no harm will come to you.

But suddenly this president is no longer operating in a weightless environment. He has tumbled to earth with a bump. This is important. When someone seems invincible but turns out to be mortal after all, it will affect how your friends and enemies approach you. They might become less fearful.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Democrats still have plenty of problems that need addressing

Now let's say a word about the real winners in all this, the Democrats. After a dreadful 18 months they have a victory to crow about. They have won in Alabama. Alabama, for goodness sake. Surely this is the platform for sweeping the board at the mid-terms! Taking back control of Congress. A hammer blow to the Trump presidency.

All I would say to that is - steady. This was not a decisive vote for Democratic Party politics, this was a referendum on Roy Moore.

And given the accusations against him, and given the number of prominent people who came out to say they had no reason to disbelieve his female accusers (the president's daughter, Ivanka, the Senate majority leader, the House Speaker to name but three), Mr Moore ran Doug Jones incredibly close.

And what is it the Democrats stand for? Are they the party of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders? What is their distinct economic message? How do they win back the blue collar workers (and a lot of other groups besides who went over to Donald Trump in 2016)?

The Democrats are right to bask in their success today. Why wouldn't you? But the problems that led them to lose in November 2016 have not gone away with their astonishing victory in Alabama.

More on this story