By Jim Ellis
Aug. 8, 2017 — As we enter the final full week of campaigning before the Aug. 15 vote, a new political poll forecasts a different leader in the Republican special US Senate election primary. The survey reliability factor could be suspect, however.
During the July 31 – Aug. 3 period, RHH Elections conducted a poll of 426 self-identified Alabama GOP registered voters who say they will vote in the special Republican primary. All but 57 responded via the Interactive Voice Response system, and the former provided their responses through an online questionnaire. No live surveyors were part of the interview process, which weakens the reliability substantially.
That being said, the RHH numbers are within the realm of the other published poll results. The new data forecasts former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore as capturing the edge with 31 percent over the previous race leader, appointed Sen. Luther Strange, who is just two points behind, meaning the contest is a virtual tie between them with as much as 40 percent of the outstanding preference spread among the remaining seven candidates. The latter group includes US Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) with 18 percent, state Sen. Trip Pittman (8 percent), and former Alabama Christian Coalition head Randy Brinson (2 percent). Those not stating a named candidate are categorized as undecided.
Though the candidates’ order may be slightly different, all polling to date suggests that Sen. Strange and former Judge Moore will likely advance to a Sept. 26 run-off election, thus leaving Rep. Brooks as the odd-man out.
For the first time, we see projections for proposed run-offs. If Sen. Strange and Judge Moore advance, the RHH findings again suggest a two-point lead for the latter man, but this time the segment breaks 34-32 percent, with 35 percent saying they are undecided.
If Rep. Brooks were to sneak into a run-off with Sen. Strange, the projected electorate would break heavily for the appointed incumbent, 42-22 percent. Should a Moore-Brooks run-off transpire, thus unseating Sen. Strange, Judge Moore would open with a commanding 43-20 percent advantage.
Turning to demographics, it is Judge Moore who does best with the most conservative segment, meaning those who rate President Trump’s job approval strongly or somewhat favorable. Rep. Brooks fares best with those who strongly or somewhat disapprove of the President’s early performance. Strange, on the other hand, does best with the youngest voters (aged 18-44) and oldest (65-plus). Judge Moore outperforms the others within the 45-64 aged group.
On the cusp of the preliminary vote, it appears a virtual certainty that the Republican nomination battle will advance to a run-off. Though RHH did not release numbers for the Democratic side, it appears possible that either marketing executive and former Navy veteran Robert Kennedy Jr. or ex-US Attorney Doug Jones can clinch the statewide nomination on Aug. 15.
The special election contest to replace resigned Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Alpine/Sandy) also features its Republican primary on Aug. 15. Three qualifying candidates are on the ballot: former state Rep. Chris Herrod, the special GOP convention-endorsed candidate, Provo Mayor John Curtis, and marketing executive Tanner Ainge. The Democratic nomination was decided in convention, so Dr. Kathryn Allen automatically advances to the Nov. 7 special general election.
So far, Mayor Curtis has spent the most (about $250,000 through July 26) and has the largest remaining war chest for the final primary drive, but the figures are small. Curtis is on track to spend around the $400,000 mark.
The other two candidates, Herrod and Ainge, have raised and spent less (Herrod: $47,000 spent/$87,000 remaining; Ainge: $24,000/$96,000) but now are expected to receive substantial support from outside organizations.
The Club for Growth announced their support of Herrod, meaning we can expect to see an advertising blitz on his behalf coming from the group in this last week before the primary. A new Super PAC called “Conservative Utah” is spending, so far, a declared $120,000 to support Ainge.
It is most likely that the Aug. 15 Republican primary winner advances to win the seat on Nov. 7, but Dr. Allen has raised more than $500,000 for the race so it won’t be quite over in a week. Most of her dollars, however, came from national sources when she announced a challenge to Rep. Chaffetz before he decided to resign. Since Hillary Clinton did not even finish second in this district, it is quite a stretch to believe that the Democrats can be viable here in November.