Frank Luntz Alabama focus group: Why we're sticking with Roy Moore

The full spectrum of Moore defenses is covered here in a brisk seven and a half minutes. Some panelists think he’s a great man, others think he’s a miserable candidate but the lesser of two evils. Some (well, all) think his accusers are paid liars but at least one is pretty chill about the possibility that they aren’t. Actual quote: “Forty years ago in Alabama, there’s a lot of mamas and daddies that’d be thrilled that their 14-year-old was getting hit on by a district attorney.” That’ll make a fine epigraph for the 2017 chapter in American history textbooks.

There’s a reference to George Soros and his scheming too, which is in keeping with Moore’s own talking points. A few days ago he cast aside the warning to judge not lest ye be judged and told American Family Radio of Soros, “No matter how much money he’s got, he’s still going to the same place that people who don’t recognize God and morality and accept his salvation are going. And that’s not a good place.” Occasional pronouncements on who is and isn’t destined for hellfire will be a fun bonus of Senator Moore’s congressional tenure.

Instead of giving you a poll to try to gauge the state of the race, let me point you to this mind-boggling analysis by Mark Blumenthal of SurveyMonkey demonstrating vividly, with hard numbers, just how unpredictable this election is. Based purely on Alabamians who say they’re certain to vote or probably will, Doug Jones leads by a whopping nine points, 54/45. A shocking Democratic blowout! But wait. If you count only those who say they’re certain to vote, Jones’s lead shrinks to six. If instead you weight expected turnout according to how often people have actually voted in the past few elections (or how often they claim to have voted, rather), his lead shrinks to three.

But Blumenthal’s not done. He remembered that Trump did much better in Alabama last fall than the state’s polls had predicted, turning an expected 11-point margin of victory into a 28-point blowout. A lot more Republicans showed up on Election Day than pollsters were expecting. What if the Moore/Jones polls are underweighting Republicans by the same proportion that Trump/Clinton polls did? In that case, SurveyMonkey finds a dead heat among those who say they’re certain to vote or probably will, 49/49. When they weight according to how often people have actually voted in elections, Moore’s lead soars to eight points. And when they include only those people who say they voted in the last midterm in 2014, he reaches double-digits — a 53/43 landslide over Jones.

In other words, there are plausible reasons to expect anything from a 10-point Moore win to a nine-point Jones win. How often do you see an election where the range of realistic outcomes spans 19 points?

Evan McMullin’s Super PAC is going on the air in Alabama with a $500,000 ad buy making the moral case against Moore. But … why?

Absolutely. All of the scandal stuff is already priced in. Jones is vastly outspending Moore and has been running his own “predator” attack ads about him for weeks. McMullin’s ads achieve nothing except putting him on record, to the tune of half a million dollars, that he thinks Moore’s a bad guy. He’d be better off running ads warning Alabamians of a corporate boycott of the state if Moore is elected, as the new senator’s anti-gay rhetoric is bound to piss off the very gay-friendly business class. There’d be a major backfire risk to ads like that since some voters would resent the attempt by outsiders to coerce Alabamians into voting a certain way under economic threat, but others would take a hard bottom-line view of it and its potential effect on jobs and either stay home or vote Jones. One way or another, a series of ads like that would affect the race. Telling voters that Moore “makes Republicans and us Christians look bad” is just more noise at this point.

Here’s the clip. The panelists’ main concern about Moore’s accusers, that they waited 40 years to speak up about him, is valid. The timing is obviously exceedingly convenient for Democrats. But both Leigh Corfman and the Washington Post say that the paper went looking for her and found her, not vice versa. It may have taken an election with national implications and a paper with national reach and resources to generate the motive and the means to go digging into Moore’s past. In any case, if Corfman had spoken up 30 years ago and Moore’s opponents had revisited her accusations this year, the spin would be that it’s old news, she was just some nut/slut trying to smear a good Christian man at the bidding of her Satanic liberal masters, etc, and that we need to move on. If instead she had spoken up immediately about Moore when she was 14, odds are fair that no one would have believed her — she’s just a dumb kid, probably with a crush on nice Mr. Moore and letting her imagination run away with her. Or possibly she would have gotten a lecture about mamas and daddies being thrilled to see their little girl get some attention from a district attorney. There was no moment when she could have accused a public figure like Moore and been taken very seriously. There always would have been some easily contrived nefarious motive about ruining his career that could have been concocted to defend him.