Is the Alabama Senate race competitive?

Is the Alabama Senate race competitive?

By Hastings Wyman –

When a Fox News poll – yes, Fox News – reported that Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones were tied, with 42% each, in Alabama’s special US Senate election, the hearts of liberals all over the country began to beat a little faster. Not only was there a chance of defeating the far-right Moore, but also of making GOP legislation one vote harder to pass in the closely divided US Senate. But the liberal joy was short lived.

The Fox News poll “was registered voters, not likely voters, a crucial difference,” says Marty Connors, a former Alabama State Republican Chairman.

Indeed, the “likely voters” polls favored Moore. The Real Clear Politics average of surveys taken from Sept. 27 to Oct. 16 showed Moore with 47.8% to 41.8% for Jones, a six point advantage for Moore. Of the four polls in the Real Clear Politics average, Moore led in three, all of which were taken of likely voters. His best poll, taken by WBRC-TV/Strategy Research on Oct. 16, showed Moore ahead by 51% to 40%, an eleven point margin. The Fox News poll that resulted in a tie was taken of registered voters, generally considered to be less accurate than a survey in which only likely voters are polled.

“Doug Jones is making the classic liberal mistake, reminding people how ‘moderate’ he is, like visiting Planned Parenthood,” says Connors. He adds, “The numbers are there, but Doug Jones is not going to places where you have to go to get cross-over votes.” Connors concludes, “A Democrat could win, but it would have to be a woman who knows the Bible verse by verse, and carries an AR 15.”

Moore has quickly managed to win the support of a number of Republicans, including those associated with a moderate record. Alabama’s Republican officeholders have united behind Moore, including the state’s entire congressional delegation, statewide officeholders, and prominent members of the state legislature. In addition, he has been endorsed by US Sens. John Cornyn (TX), Ted Cruz (TX), Rand Paul (KY) and Mike Lee (UT). The support of Cornyn, who is respected as a mainstream Republican, is particularly helpful to Moore.

The money chase does look good for Jones. Moore’s receipts totaled $2,532,000 as of September 30 and he had $542,000 on hand. Jones raised less money, $1,610,000, but he had nearly twice as much cash on hand, with $1,002,000. But Moore showed in the primary that being outspent wasn’t much of a disadvantage for him.

This is not to say that a Jones victory is out of the question. Birmingham Southern political science Professor Natalie Davis acknowledges that conventional wisdom holds that Moore will win by a comfortable margin. Nevertheless, Davis, who ran for the US Senate in 1996 as a Democrat, believes there is a potential path to victory for Jones. This would assume “a strong African-American vote” to offset Moore’s rural support,

“leaving the final decision up to suburban white voters” most of whom voted for Luther Strange in the Republican primary and “can’t stomach Moore.”

“If yard signs are any kind of an indicator,” says Davis, “Doug Jones has significant support in places like Mountain Brook, a wealthy suburb of Birmingham.” While there are Jones signs in these suburbs, “I have yet to see any Moore signs in these communities. Moore will get votes in the suburbs, but I think these people are too embarrassed to put out a sign for him.”

She concludes, “Talk about an irony! A Jones victory is dependent upon upscale traditional Republican voters.”

Jones also has traditional Democratic support, in and out of Alabama. According to the New York Times, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and US Sen. Bernie Sanders have urged Birmingham’s African-American Mayor-elect Randall Woodfin to put his political organization’s weight behind Jones in an effort to maximize the turnout of black voters, who account for one-fourth of Alabama’s voters. Woodfin has given Jones a strong endorsement. Joe Reed, head of the Alabama Democratic Conference, a major force in Alabama politics, has also endorsed Jones. National Democrats aiding Jones include former US Attorney General Eric Holder, who plans to host a fundraiser for Jones.

Jones has made a campaign focus of his 1963 prosecution of the two Klu Klux Klansmen for the bombing deaths of four little girls at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, a record which has strong appeal among black voters and does not provoke backlash among white voters.

The Washington Post also endorsed Jones in an editorial that called Moore “one of the most divisive counterproductive figures in U.S. politics,” an endorsement that is not likely to change many minds in Alabama.

Indeed, Moore has made an issue of Jones’ national support. “Bernie Sanders, and the rest of the Obama-Clinton machine, have called on their foot soldiers nationwide to invade Alabama and topple our campaign …,” Moore said on Facebook. “We need all hands on deck to defeat these Democrats and keep Alabama red!.” It looks like they are going to do just that. Stay tuned.