The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), a political action committee associated with Mitch McConnell, has announced that in the final weeks of the runoff election on September 26th between Luther Strange and Roy Moore in Alabama to see who will run in the November special election, they will be spending $3.1 million of radio and television advertising. An additional $500,000 will be spent on digital advertisement. As of August 15, according to FEC filings, $5.1 million had been spent on the runoff race with the bulk of that (83%) coming from the SLF.
The runoff was precipitated when no candidate received 50% of the vote in the primary election. In polling, Moore leads Strange by about two points- well within the margin of error,- but most analysts believe that the third place candidate’s (Mo Brooks) supporters will break for Moore on September 26th.
Both McConnell and President Trump support Luther Strange who was appointed by former Governor Robert Bentley to finish the term of Jeff Sessions who moved onto Attorney General.
In an interview between Chris Pack of the SLF and Ballotpedia, Pack indicated that the new advertisements will be of a negative nature and attack Moore:
I don’t think Roy Moore has ever endured a statewide paid campaign against him, so if you peel back the layers on the onion, there’s a lot of information about Moore that the voters of Alabama may not be aware of. The voters need to know that Moore’s charity paid him and his wife a $1 mil salary and access to a private jet. When he was waging his fight against the 10 Commandments removal, he said that tax payers wouldn’t get billed for the fight, but they did. When Moore laid off 170 court workers, he blamed a funding shortfall, but then gave himself a raise. There’s more to him than voters currently realize.
The SLF is is run by Steve Law who formerly worked with Karl Rove at American Crossroads. There is no love lost between Rove and Trump which makes this endorsement and infusion of money so interesting. Despite the rumors of an estranged working relationship between Trump and McConnell, it appears that in this case they are bedfellows. In the lead up to the primary, the SLF spent heavily on behalf of Strange for a second place finish.
Some analysts believe that the negative advertising, which also preceded the primary, actually turned some voters off. They state that for Strange to have a chance, he will have to win over the state’s urban business owners, especially in the Huntsville area which is Mo Brooks’ base.
According to spokesmen for the Moore campaign, he is prepared for any attack that may come his way. As Greg Garrison at AL.com notes:
Now, as he campaigns to keep the seat he was appointed to in the U.S. Senate, Luther Strange is also known for the long shadow that follows him around. His opponents openly question why Strange, as Alabama’s attorney general, would accept an appointment from Gov. Robert Bentley, who was under investigation by Strange’s office. It had the appearance of a shady deal, his critics and some primary opponents say.
What scares McConnell is that a Moore victory here will potentially lead other Republican candidates in the upcoming 2018 midterms to run with an anti-McConnell message. Thus far, Mo Brooks has not endorsed either candidate and Trump tweeted congratulations to both Moore and Strange after the primary. Some federal officials have endorsed Strange with most state officials endorsing Moore. Among special interest groups, there is some disagreement. The NRA has endorsed Strange while Gun Owners of America endorsed Moore. National Right to Life endorsed Strange and the National Organization for Marriage has thrown their backing behind Moore.
Through July 31st, Strange has outraised Moore $2.5 million to $308,000 and outspent him almost $1.5 million to $47,000. Given these figures and the forces aligning against him, one would think that Moore’s chances are slim. That is obviously not the case and this large ad buy seems to indicate some worry in the Strange/McConnell camp.
Stay tuned as this should be an interesting four weeks in Alabama.