This result says both less and more than it appears to say, I think. “Less” in the sense that I doubt anyone is actually more likely to support Moore because they endorse a thirtysomething man dating teenaged girls. Obviously the people who answered “more likely” here are making a statement about the WaPo story itself. They think it’s a hit piece concocted by a hostile media to discredit a God-fearing populist Republican. The “more likely” contingent is really just extending a middle finger to the liberal press.
The “less likely” group among evangelicals may be a minority but it’s a big one, which is ominous for Moore. If a quarter of his own base is willing to admit to a pollster that they’re less inclined to support him after the WaPo story, is the actual number smaller — or larger? What will it be if another story about him dating teenaged girls breaks?
This data says more than it appears to in that, while I doubt any evangelicals are endorsing grown men dating 17-year-old girls, clearly the idea of it bothers them less than the media coming after Moore does. That’s an interesting ordering of priorities for a segment of the population that preaches the importance of following Christian morals. It reminds me of this legitimately shocking PRRI survey taken last fall, after the “Access Hollywood” tape emerged:
The share of evangelicals willing to support a candidate guilty of personal immorality more than doubled in just five years to accommodate Trump, moving from a less than one-third minority to a better than supermajority. By comparison, just 61 percent of Democrats said the same. White evangelicals are actually *more willing* now than the average blue-stater to shrug off bad personal behavior in a candidate. Moore may be benefiting from a “Trump effect” not just in terms of populism being in vogue but in terms of his core constituency being willing to look the other way at credible allegations of sexual misconduct.
As I’m writing this, news is breaking. If you thought Alabama evangelicals were willing to cut Moore a break before to spite the coastal elites, wait until they drink in the spectacle of a feminist celebrity lawyer holding a presser in Manhattan:
JUST IN: Attorney Gloria Allred to hold press conference today in New York with new accuser of former Alabama Judge Roy Moore
— Jesse Rodriguez (@JesseRodriguez) November 13, 2017
The Washington Post story was way more effective than a glitzy press conference will be precisely because it was low key and the women involved didn’t seek out media attention. In fact, Breitbart has inadvertently confirmed that, dialing up the mother of Leigh Corfman and being told that it was the paper that sought Corfman out, not vice versa. That makes the theory that the women are Democratic plants enlisted to destroy Moore at an opportune moment less tenable. If it’s a dirty trick, why did the paper have to track them down rather than them coming forward voluntarily?
Moore’s threatening to sue the Post now, but if ever there was a defamation suit destined to go nowhere, it’s this one. Remember, to prove libel a public figure needs to show that a false statement was published either with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard as to its truth or falsity. WaPo has four accusers on the record and 30 total sources corroborating various details. There’s nothing “reckless” in their report. Moore may file suit for PR reasons, to prove that he’s a “fighter” and to reinforce the perception that he’s been defamed, but the suit will either be withdrawn or tossed, with zero doubt.