By Jim Ellis
Sept. 19, 2017 — Now that we’ve entered the last full week of campaigning in the Alabama special Senate Republican run-off election, several items of interest occurred in the past few days that are likely putting both candidates on edge.
As one might guess after so many polls found former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore leading appointed Sen. Luther Strange by double-digits, the Strange campaign would find a way to counter the preponderance of data.
Late last week, the Voter Surveys and Consulting firm released a new poll for the Senate Leadership Fund (Sept. 9-10; 604 previous Alabama Republican primary voters) that finds the interim incumbent trailing Judge Moore by just one percentage point, 40-41 percent, vastly different from the spreads in most of the previously released surveys.
Often we have pointed to a potential flaw in the pro-Moore polling illustrating that the evangelical percentage represents too great a proportion of the respondent universe (between 68-81 percent in the previously published data) as compared to the statewide data as a whole. Since Judge Moore brandishes overwhelming strength within this group, it is reasonable to conclude that most of the pro-Moore polling results may be at least slightly skewed.
Though it is reasonable to presume that more evangelicals will vote in a Republican run-off than is represented in the statewide total (49 percent according to US Census Bureau figures), it is unlikely that it will go as high as posted in the aforementioned composition factor.
During the weekend, Huntsville US Rep. Mo Brooks, the third-place finisher in the Aug. 15 special Republican primary, decided to endorse one of his former opponents. Brooks’ 5th Congressional District is a potential swing area in this particular run-off election, so the congressman’s endorsement could carry significant weight. Rep. Brooks posted a 41 percent mark here in the primary, winning his 5th CD against the other eight Republicans on the ballot including both Moore and Strange. In dominant Madison County (Huntsville), the Brooks percentage soared over the majority mark.
During the primary, Rep. Brooks and Sen. Strange essentially opposed each other because both were fighting for the one remaining run-off position since it became clear early that Judge Moore was going to place first. With Strange’s establishment Republican supporters heavily opposing Brooks with several million dollars of negative media advertising, the congressman now endorsing Judge Moore isn’t particularly surprising. With Brooks facing two serious June 2018 congressional primary opponents, courting Moore’s conservative political base makes even more sense because he can use the endorsement to augment his own electoral standing.
Finally, Judge Moore’s campaign released a new ad (see video at top) that attempts to draw a clear contrast between he and Sen. Strange through an attack on the senator’s supporters. In this particular clip, Moore’s wife acting as his spokesperson attacks the “Washington insiders,” not depicted as one of the Democratic leaders but rather as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The latter man’s associated Senate Leadership Fund organization is leading the attack against Moore, hence the push-back.
Election Day is a week from today, on Sept. 26. Irrespective of the Voter Surveys & Consulting poll results, it appears most likely that Judge Moore is the candidate headed for victory. With so little remaining, Sen. Strange will have a very difficult time reversing the current trends.