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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Roy Moore has now lost more statewide races than he's won in Alabama, including a Senate contest that seemed within reach. So will the Republican former judge now abandon politics and ride off into the sunset?
Probably not. Instead, he's discussing a possible recount — a longshot at best — and depicting himself as a victim of false child molestation allegations.
A Christian conservative known for never giving an inch in politics, Moore has not conceded the tight race to Democratic opponent Doug Jones.
"Part of the problem with this campaign is we've been painted in an unfavorable and unfaithful light," Moore told supporters Tuesday night. "We've been put in a hole, if you will."
Assuming the results of the special election stand, Moore could run for governor in 2018. It would be his third gubernatorial bid, after failed runs in 2006 and 2010. He could also oppose Jones in 2020, when his shortened term ends. At 70, Moore is too old under state law to run for judicial office.
One other door is wide open. He could return to the Foundation for Moral Law, a private group he founded and ran from 2003 until 2012. There, Moore traveled the nation speaking to supportive groups and submitted court briefs stating his conservative Christian beliefs in federal court cases.
No matter how he proceeds, battling beyond a bitter end would fit a pattern for Moore, who has a history of claiming any detractor is wrong.
During the campaign, he argued that the women who came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct decades ago were lying.
Likewise, when a state judicial ethics court suspended him last year from his elected position as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he said the court was incorrect to punish him for issuing a court order against same-sex marriage.
So was the same court in 2003, when it removed him as chief justice for defying a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building, Moore said.
The Alabama GOP has effectively drawn a curtain on the Senate race, issuing a statement that said it would hold Jones accountable for his votes in Washington.
"Now that this race has ended, may this holiday season of peace, love and hope resonate with everyone, regardless of one's political affiliation," it said.
Moore, a Vietnam veteran and one-time kickboxer, wasn't ready to move on.
"It's not over, and it's going to take some time," he told supporters.
And in a Wednesday video released by his campaign, Moore said it was a close race and some military and provisional ballots had yet to be counted.
It's uncertain whether Moore has a realistic future in elective politics beyond 2017.
Many people couldn't bring themselves to vote for Moore following allegations he forced himself upon two young women and tried to date other teenage girls decades ago when he was in his 30s. Others were put off by the fact that Moore seems to have a hard time keeping a job.
"As a small business owner, I think it's important to show up for work and do your job and not get fired twice," said Curt Peinhardt, 34, who runs a tutoring business in Tuscaloosa.
Although Moore's evangelical base could not propel him to victory in the Senate race, his most fervent supporters are not abandoning him.
Before Moore brought up the idea of fighting on, a backer at his election party held aloft framed artwork of the Ten Commandments and waved it at reporters. Another walked about with the image of an American flag held high.
Supporters sang hymns before cheering Moore once again and going off into the night.
Associated Press photographer Mike Stewart and AP writer Kim Chandler contributed to this report from Montgomery, Alabama.
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