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WASHINGTON (AP) — A massive Republican tax package swiftly taking shape would pull down the top tax rate for wealthy Americans to 37 percent and slash the tax rate for corporations to a level slightly above what businesses and conservatives wanted.

Republicans in Congress rushed Tuesday toward a deal. Lawmakers and aides labored at a fevered pace to blend separate tax bills that were passed recently by the House and Senate. The Republican goal is to deliver to President Donald Trump the first major rewrite of the U.S. tax system in more than three decades.

GOP lawmakers hope to finalize blended legislation no later than Friday, vote next week and deliver the package of steep tax cuts for corporations and more modest cuts for families to the president before Christmas.

Trump was making a pitch Wednesday for the tax plan, which is unpopular with many. He will offer what aides called a “closing argument to the American people.” Trump planned to deliver the speech from the Grand Foyer, the entrance of the White House mansion, laying out how the tax changes would specifically benefit the middle-class families in attendance from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa and Washington state.

Trump was to note how the tax plan would save the families money, place them in lower tax brackets and help them pay for their children’s education, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the speech.

White House advisers said Trump will assert that the plan would deliver meaningful middle-income tax cuts and help young people benefit from a stronger economy.

The speech comes as the White House has sought to push back against polling suggesting the public views the plan as heavily tilted toward corporations and wealthy Americans. Trump has asserted that the plan will lower tax rates for individuals and spur job growth, helping American families.

The total amount of tax breaks in the legislation cannot exceed $1.5 trillion over the next decade, under budget rules adopted by the House and Senate. The legislation would add billions to the $20 trillion deficit.

Once the plan is signed into law, workers could start seeing changes in the amount of taxes withheld from their paychecks early next year, lawmakers said — though taxpayers won’t file their 2018 returns until the following year.

In a flurry of last-minute changes that could profoundly affect the finances of millions of Americans, House and Senate negotiators agreed to expand a deduction for state and local taxes to allow individuals to deduct income taxes as well as property taxes. The deduction is valuable to residents in high-tax states like New York, New Jersey and California.

Negotiators also agreed to set the corporate income tax rate at 21 percent, said two congressional aides who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss private negotiations. Both the House bill and the Senate bill would have lowered the corporate rate from 35 percent to 20 percent.

Business and conservative groups lobbied hard for the 20 percent corporate rate. Negotiators agreed to bump it up to 21 percent to help offset revenue losses from other tax breaks, the aides said.

As the final parameters of the bill took shape, negotiators agreed to cut the top tax rate for individuals from 39.6 percent to 37 percent in a windfall for the richest Americans. The reduction is certain to provide ammunition for Democrats who complain that the tax package is a massive giveaway to corporations and the rich.

The top tax rate currently applies to income above $470,000 for married couples, though lawmakers are completely reworking the tax brackets.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who has previously expressed opposition to reducing the rate for the wealthiest earners, acknowledged Tuesday that the negotiators appear to have agreed on the move. “I don’t think lowering the top rate is a good idea,” Collins said.

She didn’t threaten to vote against the final bill, however, if it included a lower rate, saying “I’m going to wait and look at the entire conference report and see what all the provisions are.”

Among the other tax breaks, negotiators agreed to eliminate the alternative minimum tax for corporations, a big sticking point for the business community, the aides said. They also agreed to let homeowners deduct interest on the first $750,000 of a new mortgage, down from the current limit of $1 million.

Both the House and Senate bills would scale back the deduction for state and local taxes, limiting it to $10,000 in property taxes. California Republicans have pushed to amend the bill to enable individuals to deduct state and local income taxes as well as property taxes. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said there is an agreement on how to address the issue, though he wasn’t specific.

The House bill would limit the mortgage interest deduction to the first $500,000 of a new mortgage, while the Senate bill would keep the current limit of $1 million. Two congressional aides said negotiators have agreed to split the difference.

The provision would not affect current mortgages.

The housing industry lobbied hard against changes to the deduction, arguing it would hurt home property values.

For corporations, the House-passed bill would eliminate the alternative minimum tax, but the Senate bill would retain it. The tax, currently levied on both corporations and wealthy individuals, is intended to ensure that they pay at least some tax.

Republican lawmakers in both the House and Senate said retaining the tax would limit the ability of corporations to take advantage of popular tax credits, including one for research and development.

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Associated Press writer Ken Thomas contributed to this report.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand got a fight she wants after President Donald Trump lashed out at the New York Democrat in a provocative tweet that claimed she’d begged him for campaign contributions and would “do anything” for them.

Gillibrand, who’s up for re-election next year and is considered a possible presidential contender in 2020, has been an outspoken voice in the national debate over how to confront sexual assault and harassment. She’s argued that the rules in institutions from Congress to Hollywood to the U.S. military are set to benefit the powerful and the favored at the expense of the vulnerable.

A fiery exchange with Trump on Tuesday could brighten the spotlight on Gillibrand’s campaign to upend the dynamics and put power in the hands of the victims while simultaneously pushing the 51-year-old mother of two boys to the forefront of an unformed Democratic presidential field.

She’s scathed icons in her own party along the way. Gillibrand was appointed to Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat, but she recently said Bill Clinton should have resigned the presidency for his improprieties. That led Clinton loyalists to criticize her as an ungrateful opportunist.

The back-and-forth between Trump and Gillibrand came as a wave of sexual misconduct allegations roils Capitol Hill, forcing several lawmakers out of office in just the last week alone. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., announced he would resign amid an ethics probe into accusations that he sexually harassed several women. Reps. John Conyers, D-Mich., and Trent Franks, R-Ariz., also quit after misconduct accusations surfaced.

“I do think this is a reckoning. This is a watershed moment,” Gillibrand said of the resignations in speaking to The Associated Press late last week. “Politicians should be held to the highest standards, not the lowest standards.”

And she rejected the notion that she and other Democrats, by demanding Franken and Conyers step aside, are making a calculation they hope will pay off politically as Trump continues to fend off allegations of sexual misconduct lodged over the last year by more than a dozen women.

“That couldn’t be more cynical and backward,” said Gillibrand, who was one of the first Democrats to call for Franken to step down. “It has nothing to do with politics. This whole debate is, ‘Do we care about women.'”

Gillibrand served notice several years ago that combating sexual assault would be her issue. A member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, she and other female lawmakers dressed down senior military leaders at a headline-making hearing, insisting sexual assault in the ranks has cost the services the trust and respect of the American people as well as the nation’s men and women in uniform.

“Not every single commander necessarily wants women in the force. Not every single commander believes what a sexual assault is. Not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape because they merge all of these crimes together,” Gillibrand told the uniformed men in 2013.

Four years later, Gillibrand added her voice to the growing number of male senators calling for Trump to resign in the face of multiple accusations of inappropriate sexual behavior. A day after her broadside, Trump singled her out.

The president tweeted: “Lightweight Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a total flunky for Chuck Schumer and someone who would come to my office “begging” for campaign contributions not so long ago (and would do anything for them), is now in the ring fighting against Trump. Very disloyal to Bill & Crooked-USED!”

Gillibrand was at a bipartisan Bible study in the office of Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., when she stepped out to take a call alerting her to Trump’s tweet. She fired back, calling the president’s tweet a “sexist smear” aimed at silencing her voice. She also renewed her call for a congressional inquiry into the accusations against Trump.

Gillibrand silently shook her head at the idea that she had “begged” Trump for campaign contributions.

Democrats rushed to Gillibrand’s defense.

“Are you really trying to bully, intimidate and slut-shame @SenGillibrand?” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts tweeted back at Trump. “Do you know who you’re picking a fight with? Good luck with that.”

Senate Republicans steered clear of the latest uproar involving Trump’s Twitter account. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, a frequent Trump critic, was an exception, telling reporters he “didn’t think it was appropriate at all.”

At the White House, however, Trump’s spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said “there’s no way” the president’s tweet was “sexist at all.” She said Trump was talking about a rigged political system and the fact that lawmakers repeatedly plead for money. Federal Election Commission records show Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump donated nearly $8,000 to Gillibrand’s congressional campaigns.

Gillibrand, of Dartmouth and UCLA law, has fought since 2013 to overhaul the way the U.S. armed forces deals with allegations of sexual misconduct. A bill she crafted aims to stop sexual assaults by stripping senior U.S. military officers of their responsibilities to decide whether to prosecute sexual assault cases and giving that authority to seasoned military trial lawyers.

But the Pentagon has stridently opposed the change and the bill has remained stalled.

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After Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore Tuesday night in the special election to fill a Senate seat representing Alabama, President Donald Trump reminded Twitter early Wednesday morning that he endorsed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in the primary.

The President suggested that it was his idea to support Strange over Moore, despite reports that Trump endorsed Strange in part because McConnell asked him too.

Though Trump backed Strange in the Republican primary, he was quick to jump on the Moore bandwagon during the general election. He was reportedly frustrated that he had been convinced to back Strange and quickly deleted tweets backing Strange when Moore won the primary.

Trump stood by Moore even after the Senate candidate faced sexual misconduct allegations from several women, telling supporters at a rally over the weekend to vote for Moore over Jones.

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NEW YORK (AP) — In less than 24 hours, authorities say a would-be suicide bomber’s botched attack on a Manhattan transportation hub underneath Times Square became an open-and-shut case after a search of his apartment and hearing the suspect’s own words.

Akayed Ullah, who’s expected to make his first court appearance on Wednesday, made it clear from a hospital bed where he was being treated for burns from a pipe bomb he strapped to his body that he was on a mission to punish the United States for attacking the Islamic State group, said Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim. A search of the Bangladeshi immigrant’s apartment turned up bomb-making materials, including screws matching those found at the scene intended as carnage-creating shrapnel.

“His motivation,” the prosecutor said, “was not a mystery.”

Kim said Ullah picked the morning rush on Monday to maximize casualties in his quest “to kill, to maim and to destroy.”

Ullah, 27, with a hate-filled heart and an evil purpose,” carried out the attack after researching how to build a bomb a year ago and planned his mission for several weeks, Kim said.

The bomb was assembled in the past week using fragments of a metal pipe, a battery and a Christmas tree light bulb, along with the metal screws, authorities said.

The defendant “had apparently hoped to die in his own misguided rage, taking as many innocent people as he could with him, but through incredible good fortune, his bomb did not seriously injure anyone other than himself,” Kim said.

Ullah was influenced by the sermons and writings of a radical Muslim preacher, but appeared to have no known links to local radical groups, Bangladeshi officials said Wednesday.

He was charged with providing material support to a terrorist group, use of a weapon of mass destruction and three bomb-related counts. He could get up to life in prison.

With a tragedy averted and a growing certainty that he acted alone, attention turned to how best secure New York City’s vast public transportation system and the daunting task of identifying those eager to do it harm.

The security “requires every single member of the public’s help,” said New York Police Commissioner James O’Neill. “It requires their vigilance.”

There also was political fallout, heightened by news that Ullah had taunted President Donald Trump on Facebook with a post that read, “Trump you failed to protect your nation.”

In reaction to the bombing, the president demanded a tightening of immigration rules that allowed Ullah to enter the country in 2011 on a visa available to certain relatives of U.S. citizens. Less than two months ago, an Uzbek immigrant who came to the U.S. through a visa lottery was accused of killing eight people in New York by mowing them down with a truck along a bike path.

“We’re going to end both of them — the lottery system and chain migration. We’re going to end them fast,” Trump said at the White House.

Republican Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley requested background information on Ullah’s visa history and whether he’d ever been on a terrorism watch list.

Ullah lived with his father, mother and brother in a Brooklyn neighborhood with a large Bangladeshi community, residents said. He was licensed to drive a livery cab from 2012 to 2015, but the license was allowed to lapse, officials said.

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Doug Jones, a Democrat who once prosecuted two Ku Klux Klansmen in a deadly church bombing and has now broken the Republican lock grip on Alabama, is the state’s new U.S. senator.

Here are some facts about Jones:

CLOSE TO HOME

Jones, 63, grew up in the working-class city of Fairfield, just west of Birmingham, an area where steel mills once belched smoke that left a rust-colored haze hanging over the metro area. His father was a steelworker and so was one of his grandfathers; the other worked in a coal mine. Jones spent time working in a mill when not in school.

Now an attorney in private practice, Jones lives just a few miles from his hometown in the hilly suburb of Mountain Brook, Alabama’s richest locale with an average family income estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau at $225,000 annually.

DEMOCRATIC ROOTS

Jones got his start in government as an aide to the last Democrat elected to the U.S. Senate from Alabama, the late Howell Heflin.

After graduating from Samford University’s law school in 1979, Jones worked as staff counsel to the Judiciary Committee for Heflin, and Jones still considers Heflin a role model.

Heflin cited his health in retiring from the Senate, and Republican Jeff Sessions was elected to replace him in 1996. Jones will now assume the seat vacated by Sessions when he was nominated as U.S. attorney general by President Donald Trump. Republican appointee Luther Strange has held the seat in the interim.

CHURCH BOMBING

Years before running for Senate, Jones made a name for himself prosecuting two KKK members for the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, a brutal crime that killed four black girls in 1963.

One Klansman was convicted in the blast in 1977, and a renewed investigation was underway by the time President Bill Clinton appointed Jones as U.S. attorney in Birmingham in 1997. Jones led a team of federal and state attorneys during trials that resulted in the convictions of Thomas Blanton Jr. in 2001 and Bobby Frank Cherry in 2002.

Last year, Jones was among the speakers who urged Alabama’s parole board to refuse an early release for Blanton. The board agreed, and Blanton remains in prison serving life for murder.

PARTY GUY

Alabama’s Democratic Party has been on life support since Republicans gained ascendency years ago, holding no statewide offices and a minority in each legislative chamber, but Jones supported an effort to revive the organization in 2013.

A former party chairman formed the Alabama Democratic Majority to raise money and recruit candidates, and Jones was among those publicly supportive of the effort. The foundation was dormant by 2014, but Trump’s victory has helped breathe new life into local organizations, including the Democratic Party in Republican-heavy Shelby County, where officials say membership has jumped from around a dozen to more than 200 people since the 2016 election.

Jones’ victory can only help re-energize the party even more.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore ain’t done yet.

An obstinate Moore refused to concede defeat to Democrat Doug Jones even though he trailed Jones by a not-that-close 49.9 percent to 48.4 percent, insisting there was a possibility of a recount.

“Realize that when the vote is this close it is not over. We’ve still got to go by the rules and by this recount provision,” he declared around 10:30 p.m. CT Tuesday evening, more than an hour after the race had been called by the Associated Press and most TV networks – an after Jones had given his victory speech.

“We also know that God is always in control. The problem with this campaign is we’ve been painted with an unfavorable and unfaithful light. We’ve been put in a hole, if you will,” he continued. “That’s what we’ve got to do – wait on God and let this process play out. … Let’s go home and sleep on it.”

Alabama has a law for an automatic recount if the race’s margin is within 0.5 percent, paid for by the state. If the margin is wider, then a candidate can ask for (and pay for) a recount. But Jones led by more than 21,000 votes — a gaping chasm in the world of recount elections.

Moore’s campaign insisted Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill had indicated that a recount could happen, and told reporters to head to his office for an explanation of the rules.

Merrill, a staunch conservative who’d stuck by Moore’s campaign, said Moore could get a recount if he paid for it. But he threw cold water on Moore’s plans, telling CNN he “would find it highly unlikely” that Jones won’t be Alabama’s next senator.

Alabama Republicans made it clear that Moore is on his own in his quixotic quest.

“While we are deeply disappointed in the extremely close U.S. Senate election results, with our candidate Judge Roy Moore, we respect the voting process given to us by our Founding Fathers,” Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan said in a statement. “Now that this race has ended, may this holiday season of peace, love and hope resonate with everyone, regardless of one’s political affiliation.”

Even some of Moore’s closest allies weren’t optimistic.

John Eidsmoe, a friend and ally for decades who works for Moore’s Foundation for Moral Law, told TPM that it could be “days” for a final count — but was shocked when TPM told him that Jones trailed by more than 20,000 votes. When asked how confident he was that Moore could win, he said “not very.”

Moore, a firebrand social conservative, blew a race few thought a Democrat could win, largely because nine women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct. He remained willfully defiant throughout the campaign, denying all accusations. And after a career of obstinate refusal and intransigent fights with everyone who told him no, he looks like he’s going to go down kicking and screaming.

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President Donald Trump on Tuesday tweeted his congratulations to Democratic Sen.-elect Doug Jones (D-AL), calling Jones’ victory “hard fought.”

Trump had endorsed Republican Roy Moore in the general election, after endorsing interim Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in the Republican primary. Both men endorsed by the President lost in deep-red Alabama.

Trump campaigned hard against Jones, tweeting frequent attacks against him and in support of his opponent, despite revelations that Moore allegedly initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old and sexually assaulted a 16-year-old as an assistant district attorney, among other allegations.

Trump recorded a robocall for Moore and invited Alabamians to a nearby rally in Pensacola, Florida, among a slew of other appeals, all to no avail.

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The chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee urged Alabama’s newly elected Democratic senator, Doug Jones, to “do the right thing” and vote with Republicans.

“Tonight’s results are clear — the people of Alabama deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve in the U.S. Senate,” Cory Gardner said in a statement. 

“I hope Senator-elect Doug Jones will do the right thing and truly represent Alabama by choosing to vote with the Senate Republican Majority.”

Gardner was one of the strongest Republican voices in the Senate calling for the Republican candidate in the race, Roy Moore, to drop out following several reports that he made inappropriate sexual advances on teenagers as an assistant district attorney, including alleged sexual assault. 

Gardner cut off NRSC funding to Moore’s campaign and said he would support the Senate expelling Moore if he were elected.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Democrat Doug Jones will be Alabama’s next senator after one of the wildest races in recent memory, giving Democrats a crucial seat in the chamber and opening a real if narrow path to retaking Senate control next year.

Jones lead accused child molester and GOP nominee Roy Moore by 49.6 percent to 48.8 percent with 89 percent of precincts reporting, according to the New York Times returns. The Associated Press has called the race, as have several TV networks.

Jones’s improbable victory was made possible when multiple women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct towards them when they were teenagers. Those allegations plunged the race into chaos and gave his party a rare chance at seriously contesting a race in deep red Alabama, where no Democrat has won a major statewide office since 2006.

His win narrows Republicans’ edge in the Senate to 51-49, leaving even less room for error on legislation and giving Democrats a real chance at winning back control of the chamber next year in spite of a brutal map where they’re mostly on defense.

Democrats now just need to hold serve in the 10 states that Trump won where they’re defending incumbents, and pick up swing-state Nevada and Arizona, to win back control. That appears doable if tough in the current political environment.

The result is likely to further inflame tensions between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Trump. McConnell disavowed Moore’s campaign, called for him to drop out and refused to spend to help him after the allegations surfaced, while Trump rode to his rescue with rallies and money from the Republican National Committee after refusing to help push him out of the race. Both will likely blame the other for the disastrous result, further fueling fights within the party that will play out in a number of Senate primaries.

It’s also a blow to former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who threw his support hard behind Moore in the primary and stuck by him through the race. Bannon has promised support to a rash of populist firebrands in GOP primaries, but it might be harder to convince voters to back his candidates after the debacle in Alabama, where he was one of Moore’s most visible supporters.

The infighting between the factions began even before final results were in — and escalated as soon as the race was called for Jones.

“This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running,” Steven Law, the head of the pro-McConnell Senate Leadership Fund, said in a statement immediately after the AP called the race. “Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco.”

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner (R-CO) was direct, saying Alabama voters “deemed Roy Moore unfit to serve” before calling on Jones to vote with the GOP.

Trump himself was gracious in his loss.

But some of his supporters weren’t happy.

“I hate the fact that Doug Jones ran a gutter-style campaign instead of addressing the issues. This man hasn’t been charged with anything, he’s always been a man of faith,” Trump Alabama state chairman Perry Hooper, who was at the Moore election event, told TPM.

Hooper then turned on Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), the most prominent Alabama Republican who publicly refused to back Moore.

“It’s upsetting being a Trump guy, it’s a setback to Alabama… and there’s a lot of people upset with Sen. Shelby, I’ll tell you that,” he said.

Democrats were jubilant — starting with Jones.

“We have shown the country the way that we can be unified. … At the end of the day, this entire race has been about dignity and respect,” Jones said to a jubilant crowd in Birmingham. “This campaign has been about common courtesy and decency, and making sure everyone in this state, regardless of which zip code you live in, is going to get a fair shake in life.”

But even after the race was clearly over, Moore’s campaign wasn’t ready to concede defeat.

“Some people have called the race. We’re not calling it yet. … And it could be a while,” Moore adviser Rich Hobson said at 9:40 p.m. central time before asking supporters to pray.

Jones is a relatively liberal Democrat who’s likely to stand with his party on most issues for the next few years. He’s pro-choice, believes in climate change and holds progressive views on civil rights, LGBT rights and immigration.

He’s also been critical of the GOP tax bill, putting additional pressure on Republicans to pass the legislation before the end of the year, when he’ll replace appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in Congress. Strange was appointed to the seat when President Trump picked Jeff Sessions to lead the Department of Justice, and lost to Moore in the primary in spite of huge spending by McConnell and his allies.

Jones is a former U.S. attorney who is best known in Alabama for successfully reopening a decades-old case and prosecuting the Ku Klux Klansmen who bombed a Birmingham church in 1963, killing four little girls.

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Tensions have started to build underneath the sounds of smooth jazz at Roy Moore’s election night party as updated results have Democrat Doug Jones closing in on Moore.

Moore was clinging to a narrow lead of 49.5 percent to 49 percent lead — less than 5,000 votes —shortly after 9 p.m. CT on Tuesday — when a jazz saxophonist wrapped up his cover of Carlos Santana’s “Smooth” and a few other gems and was met with nervous silence from the audience. Moore’s lead in the raw vote count had been shrinking all evening. County-by-county results indicated a nail-biter of a race — and the more urban, more Democratic counties had more of the outstanding vote.

“We’re hanging on, 81% of the vote, we need some more,” a Moore surrogate who’d been keeping the crowd warm all night said as a once-raucous crowd tittered nervously.

“Call it!” someone in the crowd yelled a few minutes later after a family band came onstage to sing “America the Beautiful.”

“I want to call it,” he joked back.

But the once-excited crowd’s happy chatter had dimmed to a dull murmur. And at 9:15 p.m. CT, the crowd fell silent as Jones pulled ahead, with the sad sounds of “Amazing Grace” playing in the background.

Black turnout has been higher than most experts expected — and significantly higher than white turnout in some crucial counties. That’s helped Jones claw his way into a virtual tie.

The race appears headed for a photo finish, with even expert prognosticators unclear who will win.

For those watching at home, under Alabama law any election narrower than 0.5 percent of the vote triggers an automatic recount. Get your popcorn.

If y’all continue to keep the faith,” the Moore surrogate told the crowd, “we’re going to get this thing.”

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