By Jim Ellis
Sept. 27, 2017 — Voters returned to Alabama polling places yesterday, as Republican run-off participants voted to choose a nominee to advance to the Dec. 12 special general election. To re-cap, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore placed first in the Aug. 15 special Republican primary election, taking 40 percent of the vote from the over 423,000 individuals who cast their ballots. Appointed Sen. Luther Strange took second with 32 percent, which allowed both to move into yesterday’s run-off election. That’s almost exactly the way election turned out yesterday. Judge Moore scored a robust victory last night over Sen. Strange in the special Republican Alabama Senate run-off election. Sen. Strange went down to a 55-45% crushing defeat, just as the pre-election polls predicted. Judge Moore now advances to the Dec. 12 special general election against the Democratic nominee, former US Attorney Doug Jones.
Sen. Strange was the choice of the GOP establishment, which, in this case, somewhat surprisingly included President Trump, who usually lines up on the other side. But all the firepower this group brought to bear and Strange’s minimum 3:1 spending advantage was insufficient to overtake and defeat the former state Supreme Court chief, who was twice removed from the bench for disobeying federal court orders that violated his principles.
Since the primary, polls had shown Judge Moore holding the advantage heading into yesterday’s vote. So did the very last published polls released within the past 48 hours preceding election day.
The Trafalgar Group, proving to be the most accurate pollster from the 2016 election through the special elections held earlier this year, went into the field during the Sept. 23-24 period and interviewed 1,073 likely run-off voters. According to their results, Judge Moore’s lead was major: 57-41 percent, far beyond any reasonable margin of error.
The Alabama research organization Cygnal also polled the state in the closing days, and in fact during the same period as Trafalgar. According to their poll (Sept. 23-24; 996 Republican voters; 982 likely voters), the spread between the two men was a bit closer, but Judge Moore lead there, as well. The tally was 52-41 percent, with 93 percent of Moore voters saying they are definitely voting for the judge, as opposed to 90 percent who said they were fully committed to Sen. Strange.
Cygnal also tested President Trump’s affect upon the race and, as with most endorsements, little movement appears directly related. Cygnal found that 22 percent said they were more likely to vote for Sen. Strange because of the Trump endorsement, but 25 percent say they are now more likely to support Judge Moore.
When asked if the Trump endorsement influenced them to change from their original predisposition about the candidates, 20 percent say they moved to Strange after originally supporting Moore, but another 18 percent say they switched to Moore after the president suggested the Alabama electorate return the appointed senator to Washington.
Trafalgar, on the other hand, only asked the ballot test question, focusing solely on how the race was trending in the final weekend before the vote.
Sen. Strange’s outside supporters, such as the NRA, Senate Leadership Fund, and the Chamber of Commerce, went gone hard negative against Moore. They ran ads calling him a career politician and claiming he was paying himself exorbitantly from a non-profit religious organization in which he headed.
With Judge Moore’s win last evening, many of the individuals and institutions that supported Sen. Strange and attacked Moore, and then were on the receiving end of the Judge’s counterattacks as constituting “the Washington swamp” – most specifically Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) – now will have to quickly board the Moore campaign train because they are in no position to hand the seat to the Democrats.
So Judge Moore now faces former US Attorney Doug Jones (D) in a must-win situation for the Republican Party. The last Democratic US Senate candidate to win in Alabama was actually current Republican Sen. Richard Shelby. He switched parties in 1994, after winning re-election two years earlier. Ever since, the GOP has dominated the Alabama general election vote in the person of Sen. Shelby and Attorney General Sessions. The party will be on the proverbial hot seat to deliver again with Moore’s win last night.