Jeff Sessions lost his campaign to become the Republican Senate nominee in Alabama after Donald Trump took aim at his former attorney-general and campaigned aggressively for his rival in the GOP primary.
Mr Sessions, a former Alabama senator who was trying to regain his old seat after being fired by Mr Trump, lost to Tommy Tuberville, a popular former college American football coach and one-time critic of Mr Trump.
Mr Tuberville, 65, beat Mr Sessions by 21 points in the Republican primary run-off in the southern state on Tuesday. In November, he will face Doug Jones, the most vulnerable Democratic senator in the congressional elections.
“We fought a good fight,” Mr Sessions said in a concession speech that called on his supporters to back Mr Tuberville. “The people of Alabama have spoken. They want a new leader, a new fresh face to go to Washington.”
The result was the latest twist in a series of bizarre episodes involving the Alabama seat over the past three years. It marked a victory for Mr Trump who was embarrassed in 2017 when Roy Moore, the Republican nominee he had backed over the objections of the GOP, lost to Mr Jones.
Mr Moore, an evangelical former Alabama chief justice who rode to the polls on a horse, took a beating in the state among Republicans after reports that he had preyed on teenage girls. Mr Moore denied the allegations.
Mr Trump had suffered a double blow because he had first backed Luther Strange, a moderate Republican, in the primary race against Mr Moore.
At one point, Mr Sessions was the most important Republican in Mr Trump’s universe. He was one of the few lawmakers willing to back Mr Trump before it became clear that he would win the nomination in 2016.
Mr Sessions’ hardline anti-immigration stance dovetailed with that of Mr Trump and Stephen Miller, his former aide. Mr Miller remains the most vociferous anti-immigration voice in the White House.
But Mr Sessions became a public target for Mr Trump after he recused himself from the Russia investigation in 2017, infuriating the president. Mr Trump spent more than a year mocking and criticising his attorney-general before eventually asking him to resign in 2018.
As Alabama Republicans went to the polls on Tuesday, Mr Trump reminded voters he was backing Mr Tuberville.
“Vote for @TTuberville, he is a winner who will never let you down,” he wrote on Twitter. “Jeff Sessions is a disaster who has let us all down. We don’t want him back in Washington!”
Republicans face a challenging election landscape in November as they defend more Senate seats than the Democrats. Alabama is one of the few races where the Republicans hope to win a seat back from the Democrats, which is crucial to keeping their majority.
Follow Demetri Sevastopulo on Twitter: @dimi