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Alabama Sen. Doug Jones loses to Tommy Tuberville, NBC News projects

Many Democrats had expected Jones to lose the seat in a state where President Trump remains popular.
Former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville speaks to supporters in Montgomery, Ala., on July 14.Butch Dill / AP file

WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Doug Jones lost his bid for a full term to former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, NBC News projects, a defeat long anticipated by many Democrats gaming out potential paths to retaking the Senate.

With 94 percent of the vote in, Tuberville was leading with 61.3 percent of the vote to Jones' 38.6 percent.

In his victory speech, Tuberville pointed to conservative titans who he said inspired his decision to run, including Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh, promising to "fight like heck against Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, AOC."

"We can turn far left and embrace the doctrine of socialism in the next few years," Tuberville said. "Or we can point toward the American Dream, which is freedom, liberty and opportunity for all."

"I'll be guided by our shared values, conservative values," he added.

Tuberville, 65, an Arkansas native and a political newcomer, ran a campaign based on his experience as a college football coach in the Southeastern Conference as well as his support for President Donald Trump.

Senate HELP Committee Hearing On Covid-19 Update On Federal Response
Sen. Doug Jones, D-Ala., speaks at a hearing in Washington on Sept. 23, 2020.Alex Edelman / AFP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tuberville will come to Washington having provided very little indication as to how he will govern.

During the race, he limited his media interviews largely to conservative radio shows, held very few public campaign events and refused to participate in any debates, instead relying on his name recognition and Trump’s endorsement to propel him to victory.

Jones, 66, a former civil rights attorney, won a special election in 2017 to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat after Trump tapped him to be his attorney general.

Jones narrowly defeated Trump-endorsed Republican nominee Roy Moore by 1.5 points after Moore was accused of a litany of sexual misconduct accusations involving teenage girls.

Tuberville beat Sessions in a hotly contested runoff for the party nomination after Sessions was forced out as attorney general after months of public anger from Trump over his decision to recuse himself from the investigation into Russian efforts to influence the 2016 campaign.

Despite being the most vulnerable Senate Democrat, Jones rarely broke from his party.

He voted against the confirmations of both Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, and in favor of removing Trump from office during his impeachment trial. He spoke out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, called an Alabama law criminalizing abortion “shameful,” and proposed raising the age requirement for purchasing a gun.

Jones had been widely discussed as a top pick to join a potential Joe Biden administration.