By Jim EllisNov. 12, 2019 — The Club for Growth organization, the leadership of which had been encouraging former Alabama senator and US attorney general Jeff Sessions (R) to enter the state’s Senate race, conducted and released the first survey since Sessions announced his candidacy on Thursday.
WPA Intelligence administered the survey well before Sessions publicly declared, but just published the results over the weekend. The sampling period was Oct. 29-31, with a respondent universe of 511 likely Alabama Republican primary voters.
The results find Sessions leading the field with 36 percent voting preference. Auburn University former head football coach Tommy Tuberville is second with 23 percent support. The addition of Sessions to the field shows that Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) dropping into a tie for third position with former state Supreme Court Chief Judge Roy Moore as the two record 11 percent apiece. Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, the only current statewide elected official in the race, notches only six percent, and state Rep. Arnold Mooney (R-Shelby County) trails the entire field at just two percent.
If this poll is wholly accurate, it means that both Sessions and Tuberville would advance from the March 3 Super Tuesday primary into an April 14 run-off election to determine who will qualify for the general election opposite Democratic Sen. Doug Jones.
Just over two weeks before WPAi went into the field, the Cygnal polling organization tested the race. According to Cygnal (Oct. 10-12; 536 likely Alabama Republican primary voters), Tuberville led Rep. Byrne, 32-18 percent, and the two of them would have advanced into the second round. Secretary Merrill was next with 13 percent and Judge Moore followed with 11 percent, the same level of support that WPAi detected for the latter man when Sessions’ name was included. State Rep. Mooney records a similar one percent in this survey.
Therefore, we can see the difference in the race with Sessions joining and determine who loses support upon the former senator’s presence. While Sessions grabs more than one-third of the vote just because his name was mentioned as part of the candidate field, the two contenders forfeiting the most support are Rep. Byrne and Secretary Merrill. Byrne looks to be bounced from a run-off position, while Merrill loses just over half of his vote base.
It is a common opinion that the Republicans stand a strong chance of converting this seat as long as Judge Moore does not win the nomination, remembering that his disastrous special election candidacy resulted in the party losing the seat. The fact that Moore shows only 11 percent backing in two polls, including one with ex-Sen. Sessions’ presence, is good news for the national GOP.
Seeing him in low double digits regardless of Sessions’ status suggests that his base, while firm, is small and the chances of his qualifying for the run-off, assuming no candidate can reach the 50 percent plateau and clinch the nomination outright, are poor. This is especially true when seeing that Judge Moore has only raised a bit over $80,000 for the entire campaign, compared to exceeding $5.3 million for his losing special election effort in 2017.
It is likely that Sessions conducted his own internal polling before announcing in order to determine if his national feud with President Trump caused him irreparable political harm. It is further probable that Sessions’ own data produced similar results to what the Club for Growth is showing.
That being the case, Sessions is very much alive in his move to reclaim his former Senate seat, and it remains to be seen how the former senator’s candidacy will ultimately change the face of this nomination campaign.