The Bannon Effect. pic.twitter.com/jVc55MP5vL
— Senate Leadership Fund (@Senate_Fund) December 14, 2017
Jeff Sessions ran unopposed in 2014, the benchmark they’re using as a comparison for Roy Moore’s performance on Tuesday. Sessions couldn’t have lost a county if he had tried. If you want a benchmark from an election in which Democrats actually fielded a candidate, look no further than 13 months ago. Richard Shelby stomped his opponent by 28 points but there were of course islands of blue in his otherwise very red map. Even in the most Republican states, cities and college towns are apt to swing Democratic.
It would have been perfectly fair — well, sort of fair — to compare Moore’s share of the vote to Shelby’s a year ago to demonstrate “the Bannon effect” but that wouldn’t have made for a stark GIF-able visual like the misleading one above. I say “sort of fair” because it’s always dodgy comparing off-year elections to elections that take place in presidential years. Despite the huge amount of national attention paid to the Jones/Moore race, Jones won with “only” 671,000 votes. The Democrat who got crushed by Shelby pulled 748,000. That’s how much greater turnout is when the presidency is up for grabs. If Moore had been able to run with Trump at the top of the ticket he almost certainly would have topped Jones, scandal or no scandal.
Besides, Ann Coulter makes a fair point. It was the Senate Leadership Fund, the same PAC gloating over Bannon’s and Moore’s failure today, that helped ensure Moore was the nominee in the first place. Had McConnell stayed out of the race it’s possible that Mo Brooks would have edged out Luther Strange for the second spot in the primary runoff with Moore. Head to head with Moore, a perennially underperforming Republican, Brooks very well might have won the primary as the more electable, mainstream populist of the two. Having defeated Moore, he certainly would have defeated Doug Jones in the general. McConnell went all-in for the lobbyist-turned-incumbent-senator Strange, gambling that enough dough combined with Moore’s apparent unelectability and Trump’s endorsement of Strange would carry the incumbent to victory. Oops. But hey — at this point, McConnell probably prefers mild-mannered Democrats to populist Republicans in the Senate. If he couldn’t have Strange, he’s likely happy to settle for Jones instead of Moore or Brooks.
Here’s one example of how the Senate Leadership Fund spent its considerable fortune during the primary. Bannon does deserve *some* blame for Tuesday’s debacle (although not nearly as much as he’s been opportunistically assigned). But so does McConnell.