Strange Still Down, Lashes Back

(Alabama Sen. Luther Strange campaign’s latest ad)

By Jim Ellis

Sept. 11, 2017 — A new Alabama Senate Republican runoff poll was released late last week, and it provides a similar result but with potentially the same skew as we saw from earlier surveys.

According to the Southeast Research firm (Aug. 29-31; 401 likely Alabama GOP runoff voters), former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore enjoys a 52-36 percent advantage over appointed Sen. Luther Strange. But, in comparison with two other polls, the number of evangelicals who comprise the respondent universe may be overestimated. In this particular Southeast Research poll, 79.5 percent of the Republican respondents are self-identified evangelicals. Within this segment, Moore commands a 54-32 percent margin, and 58-32 percent among those who consider themselves conservatives.

Conversely, Sen. Strange performs best with those identifying as non-evangelical Christian voters. Within this much smaller segment, Strange receives a clear majority of 55 percent versus Moore’s 40 percent. The appointed incumbent also attracts stronger support with self-described moderates. Within this segment cluster, Strange’s edge is 49-39 percent.

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herefore, with a clear delineation particularly among evangelicals and non-evangelicals as to how they plan to vote in this run-off election, capturing the representative number in each polling sample is imperative for projecting an accurate depiction of where the race stands. In the polls that found Judge Moore holding double-digit leads such as Southeast Research’s, the evangelical factor has been high, possibly abnormally high.

In the Aug. 17-19 JMC Analytics & Polling survey that found Moore with a 51-32 percent lead, 68 percent of the polling sample was self-identified evangelical. The Opinion Savvy survey (Aug. 22) that returned an almost identical 50-32 percent split was comprised of 71 percent evangelical voters. The cumulative results track consistently with Southeast Research’s 52-36 percent and their evangelical factor of just under 80 percent.

A skew could exist because the US Census count projects the Alabama statewide evangelical population at 49 percent. While it is highly likely that the Republican run-off voter base will feature a greater number of evangelicals than the statewide general population total, it remains to be seen if this religious faction will reach as high a percentage in the actual voting universe as they do in these three surveys.

Irrespective of a potential skew, all polling agrees that Judge Moore holds the edge as we approach the Sept. 26 vote. It is clear the Strange campaign thinks so, too, when looking at their latest ad (see above) released earlier in the week.

The ad’s premise, one that attacks Judge Moore as a “politician who is in the Montgomery (Alabama’s capital city) swamp” virtually concedes the opponent’s statewide lead and issue strength with conservatives or they would be creating a different strategic offensive. Attempting to promote a negative image of Judge Moore as a candidate who games the system could strike a chord with the targeted voter base, but it also may be too late to attempt such a move. Normally, making such a theme resonate would require a longer time to develop than the number of days remaining in this campaign.

Judge Moore will undoubtedly respond to the latest Strange attack and the effectiveness of his counter could either seal his victory or potentially put this race back into play.

A combination of selling the personal corruption message and driving non-evangelicals to the polls in strong numbers are the two major strategic elements the Strange campaign must capitalize upon if their candidate is to have any chance of prevailing in the latter stage of this run-off contest.

Note: Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Allentown) announced late last week that he will not seek re-election to an eighth term next year. We will have a full analysis on this development coming up next morning.

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