The August 15 primary in Alabama winnowed a very crowded ten person field down to two candidates. The ‘colorful’ former chief justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court and two time candidate for governor Roy Moore and Mitch McConnell’s creature, the aptly named Luther Strange. Moore finished with 39% of the GOP primary vote, Strange with 33%, and the ‘normal’ candidate in the field, Mo Brooks, had 20%.
Now the first poll is out after the primary and it shows Roy Moore taking a commanding 51-32 lead over Strange.
Both Donald Trump and Mike Pence endorsed Strange, though they did so late in the game. What difference did that make:
Question 5: President Donald Trump endorsed Luther Strange in the US Senate race. Did his endorsement make
you more or less likely to vote for Luther Strange?
More likely 25%
Less likely 23%
No Difference 51%
How about Mitch McConnell’s support?
Question 6: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell spent millions of dollars helping Luther Strange get elected.
Did his support make you more or less likely to vote for Luther Strange?
More likely 10%
Less likely 45%
No Difference 46%
And this one, in light of Moore’s history, is going to be significant:
Question 4: Would you describe yourself as an evangelical Christian?
The poll is by a company JMC analytics. They also polled the primary and had Moore 30%; Strange 22%; and Brooks 18%. Then, as now, 17% were undecided. The takeaway is that they had the order of finish correct and correctly called the margin between Moore and Strange. Moore, it might be noted, performed higher than his polling by an average of 7 points.
AL.com, which is the web presence of the media group that controls most of Alabama’s major papers, has other analysis.
The poll indicated other negative factors for Strange. According to a summary of the poll findings, “it looks like the support of the defeated primary candidates has initially moved to Moore.”
In particular, the poll summary said that the Huntsville base that helped give U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks a third-place finish “has largely realigned itself with Moore.” Moore was polling at 52 percent to Strange’s 29 percent in the Huntsville area.
“Former Chief Justice Roy Moore at the outset of the runoff has consolidated support from the ‘also rans’, and that when combined with his bedrock support among evangelicals is giving him a substantial initial lead, while appointed incumbent Luther Strange has not been helped by the support from both President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell,” the poll’s summary said in conclusion.
The runoff is September 26. McConnell’s PAC hasn’t begun hitting Moore with attack ads yet though those will come. It will be amusing to see the angle they take. If they attack Roy Moore on his defense of the various renditions of the Ten Commandments or his defense of actual marriage, it is difficult to see how either of those attacks help him in an Alabama electorate that is 2/3 self-identified Evangelical. Moore has been criticized for speaking to some group(s) in the 1990s that allegedly had white supremacist ties. I don’t know how true those stories are and who is defining the groups as white supremacist. Given Trump’s imbroglio with Charlottesville, it will be interesting to see how McConnell is able to aim that particular attack at Moore and not manage to hit Trump as collateral damage.
This race is rapidly slipping out of McConnell’s grasp but, if you recall the Cochran-McDaniel race, there literally nothing McConnell and his people won’t say and do so long as they are fighting another Republican.