Yes, this poll was conducted over the weekend, after Trump’s rally for Strange on Friday night. And yes, the pollster is legit. It’s Trafalgar, whom you may remember as having called Michigan and Pennsylvania last fall with eerie precision when most others in the field were projecting Hillary Clinton wins by comfortable-ish margins.
My guess was that Moore will win tomorrow night by eight points despite the fact that he’s led by more in various polls of the Alabama runoff. If Trafalgar’s right, the actual margin will be double that. It’ll be a blowout and an embarrassing rebuke to Trump, who not only couldn’t get his guy over the finish line after a rally in Huntsville but couldn’t get him within 15 points of victory. I can’t understand all the political eggheads claiming this past week that the Strange endorsement was some kind of win/win for Trump when really it was a lose/lose. Either he’d end up helping an establishmentarian defeat a populist, which would annoy his fans, or the populist would defeat his preferred candidate, humiliating POTUS.
Imagine how humiliating a 16-point defeat would be.
56.74% Roy Moore
40.69% Luther Strange
Robert Cahaly, Senior Strategist and Chief Pollster at Trafalgar Group said, “Our attempt here was to measure the closing weekend impact of the Trump visit on the race as well as the effect on Trump’s approval. Though the president’s visit doesn’t seem to have swayed the race in favor of Strange, it does appear to have reinforced his personal support among Alabama Republicans which now stands at almost 80% favorability.”
Cahaly also stated, “My ending conclusion is, when the candidate’s credentials and background match what made you like the president, the president’s words don’t change your mind on a candidate. They like the president, and the support the president, they just think he’s wrong on this. They see Moore as their guy.”
That’s exactly what Steve Bannon’s counting on. Is the base loyal to Trump or to Trumpism? Bannon’s gone all-in on Moore in hopes of teaching Trump a hard lesson that it’s the latter, not the former, and that he can’t count on Republican populists to blindly follow him if he moves towards the establishment on things like a DREAM deal. In fact, although he probably wouldn’t admit it publicly, I bet Bannon’s thrilled that Trump ended up backing Strange here as strongly as he has. Strange was probably doomed no matter what Trump did for him given the size of Moore’s lead; if Trump had cut him loose or switched his endorsement to Moore, he would have taken credit for Moore’s win later and learned nothing about whether the base is more loyal to him or to populism. As it is, he’s set up a stark test of that theory. If Trafalgar’s right, he’s going to fail. Bigly.
And there’s reason to believe Trafalgar is right, albeit maybe not on the final margin:
The White House and senior Republicans are deeply worried about Sen. Luther Strange’s chances in Tuesday’s GOP runoff here — even after unleashing the full weight of the party machinery to stop his opponent, flame-throwing conservative Roy Moore.
Top administration officials and allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have spent days poring over public and private polling that shows Moore consistently leading Strange, though the race has tightened, say those familiar with the numbers…
With Strange on the ropes and time running out, the party has launched a coordinated, scorched-earth campaign to take down Moore. The sheer breadth of the anti-Moore campaign has stunned Alabama’s political class: It includes non-stop TV ads, a meticulously-crafted get-out-the-vote effort, and detailed, oppo-research-filled debate prep sessions for Strange.
Moore’s being outspent on TV five to one, per Politico, and still cruising. The only hopeful note for the White House in that report is that the race is tightening … but what if that isn’t true? What if it’s nonsense being pushed by the party to give Strange supporters in Alabama reason to turn out tomorrow instead of giving up hope and staying home?
Does this look like a race that’s tightening?
Three new polls in #ALSen all have Moore up big over Strange.
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) September 25, 2017
On Friday, the day of Trump’s Alabama rally for Strange, Moore led the race by 8.6 points in the RCP average. Today he leads by 10 points even. Trump knew going in that there was a strong likelihood his gamble on Strange wouldn’t pay off but I wonder if he imagined Moore winning by a landslide after a presidential appearance on behalf of his opponent. Someone’s going to bear the terrible brunt of POTUS’s “buck stops there” unhappiness if that’s how it shakes out tomorrow night, starting with McConnell and extending to a lot of advisors who told him to give it the ol’ college try on Strange’s behalf.
Trump spent the morning calling Roy Moore “Ray,” by the way, which I assume was a deliberate snub. He’ll have the name right by tomorrow night.