Sweet blue Alabama?Bottom Highlights, Latest Issue, Politically Aware Thursday, September 28th, 2017
Commentary: Politically Aware
President Trump’s approval rating hovers near 40 percent. Polls of the generic congressional vote show Democrats leading by eight points. Historically, those conditions predict Democratic gains of 20-30 seats in the House of Representatives and four to five seats in the Senate in 2018. Democrats have been openly optimistic about winning the 24 seats they need to take control of the House, but dour on the three they need in the Senate.
That may have changed Tuesday night, when voters chose two time former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore over currently appointed Sen. Luther Strange in the Republican primary for the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. If there is one candidate who is controversially conservative enough to give Democrats an opening in Alabama (and there may not be), it’s Moore.
It takes a special person to twice lose any job, much less the state chief justice. Moore is that special. He held the office in Alabama from 2001 until 2003, when he was removed for defying a federal court order to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the judicial building. He was elected again in 2012, and suspended in 2016 for instructing state judges to enforce Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban despite the U.S. Supreme Court decision supporting nationwide marriage equality. He appealed, lost and resigned to run for the Senate.
Despite his victories, there are signs that Alabamans are tiring of Moore’s antics. In 2000, Moore won over 60 percent of the vote. In 2012, he won only 52 percent in an election Democrats hadn’t really prepared to run. Tuesday, he won 55 percent of Republican primary votes, a number that he will have to improve on in November, even in Alabama.
Democrats are poised to take advantage of Moore’s divisiveness. If there is a Democrat with the resume to win in Alabama (and there may not be) it’s Doug Jones. Voters across the spectrum will respect his work as a former U.S. attorney. Progressives will be wowed by his work to bring the perpetrators of a 1963 church bombing to justice nearly 40 years later. Moore’s website will be anathema to anyone who didn’t vote for President Trump (who supported Moore’s opponent), listing the need to rescind free trade deals, build the wall, end gay marriage and defund Planned Parenthood. And he believes parts of Illinois and Indiana live under Sharia law.
In 2010, Republicans failed to win the Senate because they nominated a chicken barterer in Nevada, a witch in Delaware and a loose cannon in Colorado. They seem doomed to repeat history, with far right Republicans beating moderate incumbents in primary polls in Nevada and Arizona. Moore’s win could embolden other fringe candidates, particularly in open seats like Tennessee, where incumbent Sen. Bob Corker announced his retirement Tuesday. If Democrats can field electable candidates, they may be closer to taking back the Senate in 2018 than they thought, starting by turning deep red Alabama blue.
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