This post, originally published after allegations that Roy Moore initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old became public, has been updated.


Roy Moore at a campaign rally in December. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

He's obviously not dropping out. Senate Republicans tried — unsuccessfully — to kick him out. Alabama's Republican Party declined to push him out. President Trump campaigned for him.

By the end of Tuesday, Roy Moore could be elected Alabama's next U.S. senator, even though more than half a dozen women accused the GOP nominee of sexual assault or pursuing a romantic relationship with them while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

Or things could end very differently for Moore as a result of those accusations. He could be the first Republican in Alabama to lose a Senate race in more than three decades. Or, if elected, he could become the first sitting senator since the Civil War to be kicked out of the job by fellow senators.

It's tough to predict what will happen Tuesday in one of the most wild Senate races in modern history. But I'm going to try anyway.

Here are four scenarios that could happen to Moore on Tuesday and beyond, ranked from least to most likely.

Scenario 4: A challenger on the right pulls off a successful write-in campaign

Shortly after the allegations surfaced, Senate Republican leaders were openly floating the idea of Jeff Sessions resigning from his Cabinet position and launching a last-minute write-in campaign for the seat he vacated when he became attorney general.

Sessions clearly wasn't interested. So a retired Marine colonel, Lee Busby, began a long-shot write-in campaign as an independent.

But: Successful write-in campaigns require candidates so popular that voters are (a) eager to go to the polls and (b) remember how to spell that candidate's name, because they have to physically write in a name. The last successful write-in campaign for Senate was in 2010, when Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), lost the nomination for her seat then beat the nominee with a write-in campaign.

Busby has none of that. He didn't even have a working website at the time of his announcement.

Scenario 3: Moore loses the election


Doug Jones, the Democratic Senate nominee in Alabama, speaks at a campaign rally in October. (Brynn Anderson/Associated Press)

It's clear that Moore has lost ground to Democrat Doug Jones since the accusations, but he also may have regained some with Trump's endorsement. Polls have been all over the place since the allegations surfaced.


But: Moore's base doesn't seem to be abandoning him. A recent Washington Post poll found that six in 10 white women in Alabama said they'd likely vote for Moore.

And Alabama political reporter Leada Gore told The Fix that she feels as though Alabama voters have already decided that Moore is the lesser of two evils: a flawed Republican vs. an abortion rights supporter who could help Democrats flip the Senate.

“I'm not sure if the rural vote would leave Moore under almost any circumstances,” Gore said.

Scenario 2: Moore wins, and the Senate expels him


(J. Scott Applewhite/Associated Press)

The Senate hasn't successfully expelled one of its own senators since the Civil War. But it can be done.

It's not easy, though. An ethics committee must investigate the claims and find grounds to expel Moore, then two-thirds of the chamber (that means all 48 Democrats and at least 19 Republicans) must agree to kick out one of their own.

Republican senators have made clear that they do NOT want Moore to be part of their ranks, even if they've also acknowledged that they can't do anything to stop him.

But if Moore becomes a senator, you can bet every single Republican on the ballot next year will be asked about why they are serving alongside someone who has been accused of sexual misconduct. The attack ads write themselves. Here's the head of Senate Republicans' campaign committee, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.):

But: This whole process could take six months to a year. If Moore were kicked out, Alabama would need another special election, and we could wind up right back where we started. The governor would have to appoint someone, then set a date for a special election, and on and on it would go.

Scenario 1: Moore wins and doesn't get kicked out of the Senate 


Supporter Sherri Martin waits for Moore to speak at a campaign rally Dec. 5 in Fairhope Ala. (Brynn Anderson/Associated press)

The most likely scenario is Moore stays in the Senate but gets a formal slap on the wrist. That's because it's not clear that Senate Republicans will have the political will to kick him out.

The Senate has never punished or kicked out a senator who just won a fair election. It has only punished recently elected senators who were accused of election fraud, says Donald Ritchie, a former Senate historian.

So some senators are questioning whether it's fair to kick out Moore, even though they may want to. If the voters knew about the allegations and elected him anyway, is it their place to say he can't serve?  “If the allegations are known before the election, which they weren't in the case of Al Franken, for example, then we have a very tough decision to make about whether it's our role as senators to overturn the will of the people,” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said on CBS on Sunday.

But: There's a middle ground between kicking Moore out and ignoring his accusers. The Senate could decide to censure Moore, which means it could vote to officially reprimand him. It's the equivalent of a procedural slap on the wrist.

But a censure wouldn't change anything about how Moore would do his job. It would allow him to keep his job while giving Senate Republicans an opportunity to express their displeasure that Moore was their colleague.

From there, it's anyone's guess what would happen. Because we're having trouble predicting what will happen Tuesday, we'll politely decline to predict what could happen the next time this Senate seat is up for election, in 2020.