Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Alabama Senate Run-Off Election: Strange and Stranger

Today in Alabama, the GOP will select its nominee for the Senate position vacated by Jeff Sessions when he was named Attorney General by President Trump.  The winner of today’s contest will face Democrat Doug Jones in a special election on December 12.  Jones is a U.S. Attorney in Birmingham, and the lead prosecutor in the reopening of the infamous 1963 Birmingham church bombing case, a searing moment in the Civil rights movement in which four little girls were killed in the basement of the church.

The Senate vacancy has been filled thus far by Luther Strange, the former state Attorney General who was appointed by Governor Robert Bentley in the aftermath of Sessions’ departure.  Strange is being challenged by the notorious Judge Roy Moore.  The two were the top finishers in the GOP primary on August 15; since no one achieved a majority in that primary, this is a run-off election.

Strange is the establishment candidate, backed by both Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.  His exotic name aside, he is viewed as the more mainstream of the two and a far more reliable potential Senate colleague than Moore.

Moore, the former Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court would, if elected, instantly become a lightning rod of the party.  He first achieved notoriety for defying a court order to remove the Ten Commandments from his courthouse, and refusing to follow the federal law that legalized same sex marriage.  Beyond that, he is an arch-conservative quote-machine, referring to Native Americans and Asian-Americans as “reds and yellows”; comparing a Muslim congressman taking his oath of office using the Quran with doing so with Mein Kampf or the Communist Manifesto; that 9/11 occurred because American has turned away from God; that homosexuality is “abominable, detestable and unmentionable” and that same-sex marriage will destroy the country.

The general belief is that a Moore victory could open the door to a potential Democratic win in December, or at least make it more feasible.  Since Sessions ran unopposed in 2014, and Senator Richard Shelby won in 2016 and 2010 by 64/36 and 65/35 margins, respectively, this seems unlikely.  Alabama is as red as they come.  Nevertheless, Moore’s incendiary beliefs are hardly the image the party wants to convey, and the Democrats could potentially put national money into Jones’ campaign if the opponent were Moore.

Against the advice of his political advisers, Donald Trump has decided to insert himself into the race, backing Strange.  Since Moore has consistently led in the polls, Trump’s decision is an extremely risky use of his political capital; a Strange loss would demonstrate Trump weakness among his core constituency, and cast doubt on future attempts to use his support on behalf of any candidate.

It was on Strange’s behalf that Trump journeyed to Alabama last Friday night and made his now infamous speech denouncing NFL players who have been taking the knee or locking arms during the national anthem to protest police brutality of African-Americans.  Trump’s comments served to ignite far more widespread protests at NFL games on Sunday, often including whole teams, some featuring Trump-supporting owners linking arms with their own players in protest, and widespread denunciation by Trump of strongest supporters, including Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft.

As for the race itself, all signs point to a Moore win, barring a last-minute meltdown.  Moore received 39% of the vote in the primary, and Strange 33%, and recent polling has affirmed that general margin.  Polling has been extensive in the race, with seven polls in the last week alone, all remarkably similar, all favoring Moore, by an average of 9.4 points.  It does not appear Trump is having much influence on the race, based on the polling since his speech.

BTRTN predicts that Judge Roy Moore will become the Republican nominee for the Senate in today’s run-off election.

Post-election note:  We got this one right.  Moore won 55/45.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a comment