There are dozens of easy points one can score on Moore for fringe beliefs but this is what MSNBC’s leading with, huh? What percentage of Americans believe the Bill of Rights recognizes human rights granted by God rather than “creates” those rights? 80 percent, maybe?
— Alex Griswold (@HashtagGriswold) September 27, 2017
Next he’ll be shocking America’s conscience by claiming the Founders were divinely inspired. A man with those views couldn’t possibly win more than 75 percent in a statewide race in Alabama.
Moore’s actual fringiness and the media’s attention to it are going to end up baiting Democrats into throwing a bunch of money at his Senate opponent, Doug Jones, in a futile effort to pull an upset. (Jones crossed the $1 million mark in fundraising today and expects to out-raise Moore as liberals flood him with hate-cash.) Republicans probably shouldn’t taunt the opposition too much about wasting money on races, not after McConnell’s Super PAC plowed nearly $9 million into the Alabama runoff for Luther Strange. And not when the party’s facing a civil war in the primaries next year that’s going to cost populists and establishmentarians collectively tens of millions of bucks that would be better spent taking down Democrats. Still, it’ll be fun watching the left talk itself into believing a race involving Moore is winnable instead of, say, having the president do so:
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is poised to start polling the state as it weighs whether to invest in the race. Former Vice President Joe Biden is flying in for a Jones rally in Birmingham next week. Operatives aligned with the former U.S. Attorney are expecting a gush of campaign cash in the coming days.
“I just keep coming back to the number 51 percent. The last time Roy Moore was on the ballot against a Democrat, in 2012, he won 51 percent, on the same ballot as Mitt Romney, who carried the state with 60 percent,” said Zac McCrary, a Montgomery-based Democratic pollster.
There’s your Democratic slogan for the special election in December: “Let’s try to hold Moore to 51 percent again.” Jones is locally famous for having prosecuted the Klansmen responsible for the 1963 Birmingham church bombing, but a red state is a red state. Winning is a tall order:
To win, Democrats believe Jones must achieve three difficult tasks. He’d need strong black turnout; his civil rights record, well-known in the state, is considered an asset. He’d need as much as 30 percent of the white vote — a stiff challenge in a state where Democratic presidential candidates now get around 10 percent of that vote. And he’d need to be the beneficiary of a unique Dec. 12 election that could present a turnout challenge.
The DSCC and progressive groups are holding back for the moment, wondering if they really want to shovel money at the deep south in a race where Trump will be on the stump for the Republican nominee. It’s a fool’s errand, but that won’t stop thousands of small Democratic donors from kicking in for Jones as they get a daily media dose of Moore’s greatest right-wing populist hits. Meanwhile, Warren Henry asks a good question of the populist right, exulting today at the thought of Judge Roy kicking ass and taking names in Mitch McConnell’s Senate. If one of McConnell’s core problems is that he’s too weak to get anything passed, as Trump frequently complains, why do you think Roy Moore of all people is going to make that problem better rather than worse?
The irony is that, apart from making ridiculous comments for which his colleagues will be asked to answer by the Beltway media, Moore’s legacy would likely be blocking things rather than doing things. For example, while Moore undoubtedly echoes fmr. Senator, now-AG Jeff Sessions in vociferously opposing illegal immigration, he revealed during the campaign he did not know what the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was. Will he support a deal with Democrats Pres. Trump is trying to broker on the issue? That we may have to ponder the answer helps explain why Trump was convinced to back the more reliable Strange.
Moore is the sort of guy who will claim that parts of Illinois and Indiana suffer under sharia law, at least until he’s called on it. His career all points toward show horse, not work horse. He is more likely to make it more difficult to move GOP legislation through the Senate.
What’s Moore going to do to convince Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski to vote with him, wonders Henry. Would he even think to try, or would he look to impress the base with showy but quixotic stands on issues where he knows he doesn’t have the votes, a la Ted Cruz circa 2013? If he ends up in a caucus of one, McConnell’s job in forging consensus becomes that much harder. The reason to support a guy like Moore isn’t because you want consensus, it’s because you don’t. Steve Bannon, for instance, no doubt sees further gridlock as useful to his long-term project of gradually replacing the “globalists” in Congress with nationalists; the more the Senate’s gears grind to a halt, the more frustrated Republican voters will be, the more they’ll happily blame McConnell and the establishment and other boogeymen identified by Bannon. That means more victories for nationalists in primaries, at least in theory. But if you’re not a Bannonite nationalist yourself, if all you want is for the Senate to pass whatever it is that Trump thinks is best, Strange was obviously the better, i.e. more compliant, choice. It was a neat trick convincing Alabamans that the guy endorsed by the president and the Senate majority leader somehow would be worse for “getting things done” than a guy who’s been suspended from the bench twice for refusing to enforce federal rulings.
And by the way, yes, apparently super-populist Roy Moore really didn’t know what DACA was until a radio host clued him in live on the air in July. His spokesman’s reply when pressed about it: “Judge Moore doesn’t speak the language of Washington. He speaks the language of the Constitution.” Okay.
But yeah, he’s obviously going to win. If Jones holds him to a single-digit margin, Democrats will take that as a moral victory ahead of the midterms. More interesting than the Senate race itself is whether and how much Dems will agitate for the Senate to refuse to seat Moore once he does win. That won’t work either (imagine McConnell refusing to seat a duly elected red-state senator) but they’ll make great hay of it for a few weeks. They’ll hit Moore’s habit of defying rulings that conflict with his religious beliefs, his ducking a question about whether death should be the penalty for sodomy as the Bible prescribes, and his own call for the House not to seat Keith Ellison in 2006 after Ellison became the first Muslim elected to Congress. (“[C]ommon sense alone dictates that in the midst of a war with Islamic terrorists we should not place someone in a position of great power who shares their doctrine.”) People like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and of course Trump, not just McConnell, are going to be quizzed now on whether they agree on a religious test for holding a congressional seat. If it was good enough for Ellison in Moore’s eyes, Dems will say, why not for Moore himself?