The circumstances probably sound familiar: there's a Senate special election in a reliably partisan state that always votes the same way. Before the race even begins, the conventional wisdom takes root: the contest is over before it starts.
The first-year president, who won that state with ease a year earlier, assumes his party's candidate will prevail and help advance his agenda on Capitol Hill. Polls, however, start hinting at a surprisingly competitive race. The president, just shy of 12 months in office, starts scrambling to support his candidate, urging the state's voters -- with whom he is fairly popular -- not to undermine his plans by backing the other party.
But the appeals fall short. In an upset that captures the nation's attention, and stuns political observers everywhere, the reliably partisan state that always votes the same way does the unexpected.
I'm referring, of course, to the Senate special election in Massachusetts in January 2010.
After Republican Scott Brown prevailed in one the nation's bluest states, then-Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) declared, "There's going to be a tendency on the part of [Democrats] to be in denial about all this, [but] if you lose Massachusetts and that's not a wake-up call, there's no hope of waking up."
Now look at that sentence again, but replace "Democrats" with "Republicans," and "Massachusetts" with "Alabama."
There's no shortage of angles to Sen.-elect Doug Jones' (D) upset victory over Roy Moore (R), but near the top of the list is the impact the election will have on the broader landscape -- because Alabama, to everyone's surprise, has jolted the political world.