Roy Moore’s decidedly fire and brimstone brand of conservatism isn’t something that Senate Democrats are looking forward to dealing with, assuming he wins his special election bid in December. But is that going to happen? That sounds like a silly question on the surface. Alabama hasn’t sent a Democrat to the Senate in twenty years. (An interesting historical side note is that the state was solid blue from the 1870s until 1981.) So Moore is a shoe-in, right? If you read AP’s piece last night you saw that the current polling has Moore in the lead, but the margin is only six points.
This is news which is attracting the attention of Democrats. A six point race? Hey… maybe they can win this thing! That’s probably a bit premature, particularly when you consider that the race is close, but Moore’s support is already above 50%. Granted, such things can and do change with the passing of a single news cycle, but it would be remarkable indeed to see that seat slip away to the Mr. Drive-Through Abortions on Demand candidate, Doug Jones.
It still seems like a long shot for the ages, but I’m seeing some nervous conservatives on social media this week wondering whether or not Alabama primary voters have just saddled themselves with the next Christine O’Donnell. Moore has been vetted six ways to Sunday by now and we have no indication that there’s a trove of old talk show clips lurking out there in which he declares himself to be a witch. (Or would that be warlock?) But the question they’re asking is if Moore is actually too far to the right to be electable. Wait a minute. We’re talking about Alabama here. Is that even possible?
Check out one hopeful Democrat from Alabama who isn’t counting any chickens, but is not ready to give up the ship. Roy Hoffman feels that Alabama is fundamentally divided at heart between progressive and conservative attitudes and this race might not be over yet. (Washington Post)
[Alabama] now is a bellwether for the nation: coming together vs. staying apart. When O’Brien asked me what our state does well and what it doesn’t, I spoke of Alabama’s famous and often well-deserved reputation for hospitality. Newcomers such as the immigrants of my grandparents’ generation arriving at Mobile’s downtown blocks and speaking little English felt welcomed enough to stay and put down roots. “Come on in, y’all!” But running against that grain, I added, was the counter-impulse of a culture anxious about outsiders and fearful of those who look, act, pray or speak differently, even if they live on the other side of town. “Trespassers beware!”
This push-pull, this embracing change or bracing against it will still be with us whether our next senator, as predicted, is the far-right Moore, a longtime public figure who’s made no secret of his disdain for Muslims, gays and those whose sense of faith differs from his evangelical Christian fervor, or mainstream Democrat Doug Jones, in a possible upset. Either way, I feel strongly that an ever-increasing openness, a cultural diversity, is inching forward, if not evidenced by raw numbers, then in the kinds of people who increasingly call Alabama home.
Hope springs eternal, I suppose. Frankly, if this were a regular mid-term or presidential election year I don’t think we’d even be having this conversation. There may be some demographic shifting going on in Alabama, but at this point the GOP primary is pretty much the same as the general election, so worries about another Christine O’Donnell should be easily dismissed. But these aren’t ordinary times and this isn’t a regular election. It’s taking place on December 12th, just after Thanksgiving and barely two weeks ahead of Christmas. Special elections generally have dismal turnout rates on the best of days, but this is a particularly brutal season to get out the vote.
As Rasmussen foreshadowed over the summer, Alabama has a history of disruptive and unpredictable special elections. There’s no reason to expect that an unsettled electorate showing up in sparse numbers won’t have the GOP biting their fingernails here. If this was a full turnout scenario things would seem more certain. In November of 2016 they turned out more than 2.1 million voters and Donald Trump nearly doubled Hillary Clinton’s totals. But in the 2010 midterms when Richard Shelby won another term, the turnout was almost a million votes lower. For a December special election they might not even break a million total and the Democrats have proven that they can turn out at least 700K if they really have to.
Does that mean Moore is in trouble? I still don’t think so. But we have lived to see interesting times, my friends, and you simply can’t take anything for granted these days.