Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore refused to concede defeat in Alabama's Senate race on Tuesday night, telling supporters, "when the vote is this close, then it's not over."
Moore spoke at what many had believed would be a victory party in Birmingham, Ala., for the Republican in this deep red state. Instead, Moore trailed Democrat Doug Jones by more than 20,000 votes late Tuesday night, with more than 99% of precincts reporting, according to NBC News. Jones was projected as the apparent winner of the election.
"When the vote is this close, then it's not over, and we've still got to go by the rules, by this recount provision," Moore said. "The secretary of state has explained it to us, and we're expecting that the press will go up there and talk to them and find out what the situation is," he said.
Shortly before Moore took the stage, Jones gave a victory speech, and major news organizations, including NBC News, all projected that Jones was the apparent winner of the hotly contested race.
Still, Moore refused to publicly concede the race Tuesday. "God is always in control," he told supporters, and "what we've got to do is wait on God and let this process play out."
Votes were still coming in, Moore said, "and we're looking at that. It's not over, and it's going to take some time."
A senior Jones campaign official later confirmed to NBC News that Moore never called Jones to concede the race.
Still, a preliminary analysis of the state election rules does not bode well for Moore's chances of triggering a formal recount in the race. Under Alabama law, in order to get a state-financed recount, the margin of victory must be a half of one percent or less.
Should Moore ultimately decide to seek a recount, he would have to proceed without the backing of the state Republican party, which released a statement late Tuesday night saying the "race has ended."
"While we are deeply disappointed in the extremely close U.S. Senate election results ... we respect the voting process given to us by our Founding Fathers," Terry Lathan, chair of the Alabama GOP, said in the statement.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, R, also sought to discourage Moore from dragging the race out, writing on Twitter Wednesday that the election "wasn't close enough" to merit a recount. "It's best to exit with class," wrote Huckabee, a onetime presidential hopeful.
As of 8AM Wednesday morning, the NBC News election tally showed Moore trailing Jones by approximately 21,000 votes, with more than 1.2 million ballots cast.