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Alabama election's real winners and losers

  • African American voters and the #MeToo movement were the big winners in the Alabama special election.
  • Another big winner was New Jersey Senator Corey Booker, who campaigned hard for winner Doug Jones.
  • Steve Bannon, Mitch McConnell, and President Trump are the losers.
Democratic Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones and Democratic New Jersey Senator Cory Booker attend a campaign rally in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S., December 10, 2017.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
Democratic Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones and Democratic New Jersey Senator Cory Booker attend a campaign rally in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S., December 10, 2017.

Democrat Doug Jones has defeated Roy Moore in the Alabama U.S. Senate special election. The upset victory slices the Republican majority in the Senate to just one seat, giving Democrats a better chance of retaking the Senate in 2018. It will also make it that much tougher for the GOP to enact their legislative agenda going forward.

While there are many winners and losers from the from the Dec. 12 special election beyond the victor Doug Jones and the vanquished Roy Moore, here are the ones that top my list:

Biggest winner: African American voters

It's often pointed out that if African American voters would turn out in greater numbers, elections in the Deep South would be more competitive for Democrats. Now there's real proof. Washington Post exit polls show that African Americans were responsible for 28 percent of the total votes cast Tuesday. That's even though they are only 26 percent of the population of the state of Alabama. A transformational voting block has been potentially re-awakened.

This could electrify efforts to boost African American voting numbers in other southern red states with significant black populations. The biggest, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates for 2016, are Mississippi (38 percent), Louisiana (33 percent), Georgia (32 percent), and South Carolina (28 percent). Each of those states currently has two GOP U.S. Senators. And one of them, Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, is up for re-election next year.

Second biggest winner: #MeToo Movement

The power of sexual misconduct allegations to derail a candidateis clearer than ever.

The #MeToo wave has already proven to be equally lethal to elected officials from both parties. The fact is, just in Congress alone we still have more than 260 sealed cases where taxpayer money was used to settle allegations of harassment against Members of Congress and their staffers. Moore's downfall, in part because of the charges of child molestation against him, gives an added push to unseal those deals and publicize other cases to maximum effect.

Third biggest winner: Corey Booker

Every Democrat Senator gets a piece of this win because now their caucus is that much closer to retaking the majority. But New Jersey Senator Corey Booker is the biggest individual winner beyond Jones himself.

That's because Booker got the most attention for his hard work campaigning for Jones in Alabama in the days before the election. He even shared the spotlight with Jones in the widely-published photo of his victory speech on Tuesday night.

But Booker gets even more of a boost because he has now gone along way towards proving that perhaps Barack Obama isn't the only blue state black Democrat who can energize a Southern black voting base. It seems like ancient history, but there were those who doubted the Ivy educated Obama who came from Chicago could connect with and fire up black voters nationwide. Booker, who comes from the Northeast and is also the product of an elite Stanford/Yale education, has faced similar doubts. Now, Booker is a reasonable contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020.

Split decision: The polls

An average of all the polls had Moore winning by more than two percentage points. So this is another loss for the polling industry as a whole. But there were some big individual polling winners and losers.

Kudos goes to the Monmouth University Polling Institute who came closest to nailing this election with its prediction that it would end in a tie. But Monmouth gets extra credit for correctly pointing out that a higher-than-expected voter turnout would give Jones a slight edge. Gravis Marketing is the runner up polling winner with its bet that Jones would win by four points.

The biggest polling loser is the Emerson College poll. Its final survey had Moore winning by nine points, and it consistently gave Moore a bigger lead than other polls.

Biggest loser: Mitch McConnell

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is the biggest loser.McConnell looked amateurish and weak when he backed off from his initial strong opposition to Moore and said during a national TV interview on December 2nd that, "I'm going to let the people of Alabama make the call." Before that, he had been making headlines by urging Moore to withdraw from the race.McConnell's flip flop makes him a double loser by first backing Moore'sill-fated opponent Senator Luther Strange in the primary and then failing to remain publicly opposed to Moore in the general election.

McConnell has proved once again that he can't command discipline,even in himself, let alone in the GOP Senate races. Just as we saw when he failed to navigate the Obamacare repeal process through the Senate this summer,McConnell's leadership is in question.

Second biggest loser: Steve Bannon

The big consensus out there is that former White House strategist Steve Bannon is the biggest loser after he went out of his way to back the controversial Moore.

That consensus is wrong.

Bannon is a loser for sure. But he just doesn't have as much to lose as McConnell. Bannon jumped into this Alabama race after the primary showed Moore with a lead. Sure, the pressure is on Bannon to show he can produce viable candidates. But that's a lower bar to reach compared to McConnell's task of herding an unruly Republican caucus while also having to work with an unruly White House.

Bannon is really a bomb thrower who is playing at being a political king maker. King making, or at least Senator-making, is actually McConnell's job.

Third biggest loser: President Trump

President Trump could have bowed out of this embarrassment after his pick to win the GOP primary, Luther Strange,lost to Moore in September. But he finally came out with a full endorsement of Moore over the weekend.

Even so, those calling this a massive rebuke to the president are overdoing it. Moore went from being called "Judge Roy Moore," to "Accused Child Molester Roy Moore" in almost every public reference. That's a hurdle almost no presidential endorsement in any state could overcome, though President Trump seems to have been too arrogant to realize that.

There is one wildcard that could make this a real disaster for the president. That is if the #MeToo wave actually reinvigorates the sexual misconduct allegations made against him during the 2016 election. That's a process that has yet to play itself out.

For the president, the sting of this loss will be mitigated in the short term if the GOP tax reform bill passes. And that can still happen this month. Reports surfaced Wednesday that House and Senate Republicans have made a deal on a combined GOP tax reform bill. That means President Trump's status could go from "loser" to "winner" in just a matter of hours.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Follow him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.