Over the weekend, President Trump announced that he will visit Alabama next weekend to campaign for Sen. Luther Strange in that state’s Senate primary Republican run-off . I found this decision difficult to explain inasmuch as (1) polls show that Strange trails his opponent Judge Roy Moore by a significant margin and (2) Moore seems as likely as Strange to vote for pro-Trump positions — at least the ones that aren’t crafted with the help of Chuck and Nancy.
I wondered whether the White House views the race as closer than the polls suggest. I also appealed for guidance from my Alabama sources.
Quin Hillyer is my primary go-to guy on Alabama politics. Regarding Trump’s visit to Alabama, he tells me, succinctly:
I am flabbergasted. Strange is going to lose. This will make Trump look like a loser.
The very latest poll tends to confirm Quin’s view. The survey, by JMC Analytics, finds Moore ahead of Strange 47-39, with 14 percent undecided. If “leaners” are assigned to the candidate they tend to favor, the margin remains the same — 50-42. The margin of error is 4.4.
Most previous polls have showed Moore to be ahead by double digits. Thus, the race seems to have tightened a bit. However, the election is now only a little more than a week away. (The JMC survey was conducted from September 16 to September 17.)
These results are pretty consistent with the results of the initial primary, in which Moore outpolled Strange by six points. The third place finisher, Tea Party conservative Rep. Mo Brooks, recently endorsed Moore and disclosed he has already voted for him. Brooks made these comments during the period in which the JMC survey was being conducted. Trump’s announcement that he will campaign for Strange next week also occurred during this period.
A reader who is plugged in to Alabama Republican politics expects Moore to win and wonders whether he will defeat Democratic candidate Doug Jones in the general election. He notes that in a recent poll conducted for Emerson College, Strange voters were almost evenly split in their preference for Jones (31 percent) versus Moore (34 percent). The same poll shows Jones in a statistical tie with Moore (and Strange). However, our reader suspects that this poll overstates the level of support Jones is likely to receive in the general election.
Our reader is a Brooks supporter, as I think I would have been. He blames the current “strange doings” on Mitch McConnell. He writes:
The Republican establishment poured millions of dollars into a Senate primary campaign in a state that is more deeply red than the Alabama football team’s crimson jerseys to defeat a highly principled and intelligent conservative because McConnell et al. knew that Brooks would not be the Senate Majority Leader’s lickspittle. The McConnell and Strange tactics were almost guaranteed to lead Brooks and many of his supporters to support Moore, a principled but badly flawed candidate over Sen. Strange, who is capable but remarkably flexible on issues.
Because of this, McConnell may well get Moore as the new Republican senator, who will certainly not go along to get along, but may not understand what he is not going along with. (For example, he asked a radio interviewer what DACA was when asked his position on it.) Or worse yet, McConnell may have helped elect a Democrat.
And President Trump may well end up looking like a loser in a state where, as he is fond of reminding us, his rallies drew massive crowds.