By now, most everyone is familiar with the results of last week’s runoff race for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate between the appointed Senator Luther Strange and the decidedly weird Judge Roy Moore. Attention was particularly focused on this race after Donald Trump endorsed Mitch McConnell’s choice of Luther Strange. In normal times (which these definitely are not) a Republican presidential endorsement of a candidate in a Republican race would pretty much ensure that candidate’s victory. But not this time.
Granted Trump did not help Luther Strange’s chances when he spoke at a pre-election rally for him. Perhaps by that time, he was reading the mood of the Republicans in Alabama and realized he was backing the wrong horse. In fact, he admitted he might have made a mistake in endorsing Strange and then went on to encourage the attendees (and by extension the rest of the Republicans in Alabama) to “send a message to Mitch McConnell.” Despite his earlier claims on Twitter that his endorsement of Strange was closing the gap in the race (tweets which he deleted immediately after Strange was defeated) it was obvious that the “Trump factor” hurt rather than helped the incumbent Senator.
It became obvious that the party faithful were not just fed up with Trump, but perhaps more so with the Republicans in Congress, who have yet to fulfill a single campaign promise. Repeal and replace ObamaCare. Tax reform. Build the wall. You name it, and they haven’t done it, despite having been given the majority in both chambers of Congress. As Abraham Lincoln said “You can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”
Alabama has a reputation as a land filled with redneck racists who only drive pick up trucks waving the Confederate flag. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is true that this state is deeply conservative and strongly religious, but there is an independent streak in Alabamans where they don’t like being told what to do – by anyone. In some ways, they become oppositionally defiant. Tell them NOT to vote for someone and, by gum, they just might vote for them anyway. It’s true that this is the state that produced George Wallace, but not that many people are still around who voted for him back in the 1960s and 70s.
My daddy came from LA (lower Alabama) but moved to Georgia after World War II. He was about as conservative as they came (but also graduated magna cum laude from Emory University). When Lester Maddox was chosen Governor of the state of Georgia, he told everyone on business trips that he was from South Carolina. Maddox was the same type of flamboyant, no-holds-barred candidate that Judge Roy Moore has been.
One would expect that Moore is now a shoe-in to win the general election that will be held in December of this year. But there is an interesting development that could turn Alabama politics upside down. The Democrats chose as their candidate a man named Doug Jones. Jones was a Democrat when it was fashionable to be one in Alabama. Like Judge Moore, his background is in the legal field. According to his website, he also served as staff counsel to Senator Howell Heflin, one of Alabama’s most distinguished Senators.
Jones was appointed as the United States Assistant Attorney General for Northern Alabama in 1997 by President Clinton and confirmed by a Republican Senate. During his tenure there were two highly significant cases he handled. First was the prosecution of the American terrorist Eric Rudolph, who had bombed the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996 and then an abortion clinic in Alabama in 1997. Jones was also instrumental in re-opening and prosecuting one of the most heinous crimes committed in Alabama – the 1963 bombing of a church in Birmingham in 1963 that resulted in the deaths of four young girls. Through his efforts and those of his team, two members of the Ku Klux Klan were finally convicted for their crime 35 years later.
But now things get really interesting. In a poll commissioned by Decision Desk HQ immediately following the GOP run-off, Moore only had a 6 point percentage lead over Jones. The results also showed that the voters planning to support Jones was 11 percent higher than those who identified themselves as Democrats. In other words, expect a lot of Republicans to vote D in December. With a 4 point margin of error in the poll, Moore’s lead is tenuous at best.
It is entirely possible that the majority of the voters in Alabama do not want to be represented by a man who was removed from the State Supreme Court TWICE for failure to follow the law. Perhaps they would rather not have a Senator who sponsors Secessionist parties in his home. But as any Hillary Clinton supporter can tell you, a lot can happen in the last couple of months of a campaign. Former Vice President Joe Biden has already indicated he will campaign for Jones. Don’t expect a replay of the Ossoff/Handel campaign for Tom Price’s seat. That came early in the Trump presidency and anyone with an R after their name has a lot of explaining to do. Trump has already jumped on the Moore bandwagon enthusiastically. We can only hope his endorsement of Moore will be as effective as his endorsement of Strange. As political commentator Rick Wilson has pointed out “Everything that Trump touches dies.”