Looks like the GOP won’t need Jeff Sessions to swoop in and swipe this nomination after all.
In fact, if this poll is accurate, McConnell might not even need Trump to go down there and stump for one of Moore’s primary opponents. He’s perilously close to fourth place here.
Note that this survey was conducted on June 22 and 23, a few days after Moore announced that he was running again. Typically a campaign announcement produces a bounce for a candidate, sometimes even a sizable one like Joe Biden’s. If that’s what happened to Moore here, how low was he polling before the announcement?
Nearly a third of Republicans admit they’re likely to vote for Doug Jones in the general election if Moore is the nominee; doubtless there are more who intend to do so but won’t tell a pollster that. His favorable rating — again, among Republicans — stands at 28/65.
What the hell is his statewide number if he’s -37 within his own party?
No wonder Senate Republicans were spoiling to take him down after last week’s announcement:
Added Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “We’ll be opposing Roy Moore vigorously.”…
“Give me a break. This place has enough creepy old men,” said Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), referring to Washington, when asked about Moore’s candidacy…
A Moore candidacy could harm Republicans’ national brand if he catches fire again, and incumbents running in purple states — like Gardner and McSally — are loath to find themselves tied to him. And facing a tougher 2020 map with several battleground seats in play, Republicans are eager to beat Jones and cushion their majority.
He is well and truly done if these new numbers reflect party sentiment. But that’s a big if. Remember, a different poll taken in April found Moore doing much better, even leading a hypothetical field:
How do we square that poll with today’s poll, assuming for argument’s sake that neither one’s methodology was screwy? I’ll give you three theories.
1. Reality set in. When Alabama Republicans were asked about this in April, Moore was still two months away from a decision. Undecideds might have chosen his name due to pure name recognition, or as an act of defiance towards the GOP establishment. Now that he’s actually in the race, though, many of them may have had flashbacks to the outcome in 2017 and thought, “Sh*t, this guy again? No thanks.” Result: Third place.
2. The Trump factor. Remember this tweet?
…If Alabama does not elect a Republican to the Senate in 2020, many of the incredible gains that we have made during my Presidency may be lost, including our Pro-Life victories. Roy Moore cannot win, and the consequences will be devastating….Judges and Supreme Court Justices!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 29, 2019
That was May 29, around a month after the poll showing Moore leading the field was released. A month later, he’s now down to 13 percent. Maybe POTUS’s strong signal of disapproval succeeded in steering Republican populists away. (Trump’s favorable rating with Alabama GOPers in today’s poll is 84/15.) Granted, Trump also sent a signal of disapproval towards Moore in the 2017 primary runoff by endorsing Luther Strange, and that signal was ignored. But that came before the reports of Moore chasing teenaged girls as a middle-aged man. And of course it came before Moore blew one of the most easily winnable Senate seats for a Republican in the country. At this point, Alabama Republicans might have needed only the slightest nudge to abandon Moore. Trump provided it.
3. The Tuberville factor. There’s a key difference between the April poll and today’s poll, isn’t there? The first one didn’t include former Auburn football head coach Tommy Tuberville. Tuberville’s a Trumpy figure in a way, a newcomer to electoral politics who nonetheless enjoys high name recognition due to his celebrity in another field. That may be why he’s leading here — nothing more or less than the fact that every football fan in Alabama knows who he is. But it may be that his newcomer appeal is cutting into Moore’s support specifically. If the idea in sending Moore to Washington two years ago was to have a political outsider shake up the establishment, you can get that same feature in Tuberville’s candidacy minus Moore’s Elmer Gantry-ish drawbacks. My guess is that Tuberville’s support is mainly drawn from populists, the same people who’d otherwise gravitate to Moore. The coach may be inadvertently doing Mitch McConnell a favor by running, especially if he and Moore end up splitting righties and Bradley Byrne ends up as the nominee by consolidating establishment support.
Exit question: If Moore makes a comeback and Sessions just won’t run, what’s the “break glass in case of emergency” option here? Gotta be Nick Saban, right?