The last time we looked in on the Alabama Senate primary race between Sen. Luther Strange and Judge Roy Moore, the (former) judge had a double-digit lead. In the first round of the primary, Moore bested Strange by six points and apparently had extended the margin as the run-off approached.
That was about three weeks ago.
The latest poll, by Emerson just a few days ago, suggests that the race hasn’t changed significantly. Moore’s lead, according to that poll, is 14 points. However, a survey taken in late August performed for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has Moore’s lead at just two points. Make of that what you will.
Early on, President Trump endorsed Strange, the incumbent who was appointed to fill Jeff Sessions’ seat. Given Strange’s low standing in the polls, however, it seemed questionable whether Trump would actively work for Strange down the stretch. Moore seems as likely as Strange to vote for pro-Trump positions — at least the ones that aren’t crafted by Chuck and Nancy.
But now, Trump has announced that he will visit Alabama next weekend to campaign for Strange. He tweeted:
I will be in Huntsville, Alabama, on Saturday night to support Luther Strange for Senate. ‘Big Luther’ is a great guy who gets things done,
What does Trump’s visit signify? Does he think the race is close? Is this a favor to Mitch McConnell, who has reason to feel unhappy with the president these days?
I don’t know. I’ll wait to hear from my Alabama sources before hazarding a guess.
In the meantime, here is Breitbart’s take (presented by Matthew Boyle). It’s worth reading not just as commentary on the Strange-Moore race but also as a reflection of Breitbart’s current view of Trump. Boyle writes:
Trump’s doubling down on Strange support comes after he flip-flopped on Afghanistan by promising a troop surge in the country after campaigning for years on a promise to end the war in Afghanistan, after he cut a deal with Democratic leadership in Congress on the debt ceiling and government spending, and after he has run crosswise with his supporters when it comes to dealing with illegal immigration and amnesty for illegal aliens. . . .
Trump said he does not believe in “amnesty,” but the definition of amnesty is exactly what he is pushing for. Trump’s move comes as he, during a dinner with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, reportedly came to an agreement on granting said amnesty to those illegal aliens. The White House has pushed back on the notion there is an agreement with the Democrats.
In addition, late Saturday the Wall Street Journal reported that Trump plans to actually stay in the Paris Climate Accords despite promises earlier this year to back out. The Trump White House has vehemently pushed back on the report, but White House National Economic Council (NEC) director Gary Cohn–a Hillary Clinton supporter and former Goldman Sachs banker who somehow worked his way into the Trump White House–is supposed to speak about “climate change” before the United Nations in New York City next week.
Essentially, what the Alabama race provides for the first time since Trump began backtracking on a number of his core agenda items, is a chance for voters to affirm whether they believe in Trump or whether they believe in the agenda he campaigned on. If they believe in Trump’s agenda, Moore is the clear choice–but if they follow the cult of personality around Trump, then Strange is the clear choice. And for Trump’s personality to rescue the endangered Strange campaign, it will take a herculean effort on the part of the president.
Clearly, the Alabama Senate race is not shaping up as your average GOP run-off election.