Talk about a big question mark from the data-crunchers: could a Democrat win in Alabama? Democrat Doug Jones is an abortion extremist. You’d hardly think he has a chance and up until recently, you’d be correct. Yet, as more women come forward to accuse Republican candidate Roy Moore of sexual impropriety, including assault and molestation, we have a slew of polls giving us different pictures of what’s happening on the ground. We have Jones up four points over Moore, and then a poll shows Moore is up by six. Granted, that Fox10 poll also noted that Moore had dropped three points from a week ago, while Jones gained two. Yet, a poll from the National Republican Senatorial Committee has Jones up 12 over Moore (via Politico):
Republican Roy Moore is trailing Democrat Doug Jones by 12 points in the Alabama special Senate election, according to a poll conducted by the National Republican Senatorial Committee after five women accused Moore of pursuing them as teenagers.
Jones led Moore 51 to 39 percent, according to the survey taken Sunday and Monday. The NRSC withdrew its support for Moore after the Washington Post published the first allegations against Moore on Thursday, and the group’s chairman, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) said Moore should be expelled from the Senate if he wins on Dec. 12.
The poll shows a dramatic turn against Moore in Alabama: In early October, a committee poll had him leading by 16 points, and a survey early this month had him up by 9 points. Moore’s favorability numbers also tanked, from 49 percent in early October to 35 percent in the NRSC’s latest poll.
Should we be panicking? The Alabama electorate is prime for Republicans. I mean it’s almost ironclad Republican. Pollsters and observers alike can agree: Alabama is pretty much a killing field for Democratic candidates. Still, while these polls show Moore’s support evaporating, there is one thing to remember, which is that these voters do not like Washington telling them what to do. It could embolden Moore’s base—with a new survey showing that 37 percent of white evangelicals (a huge part of the electorate down there) in the state are even more likely to support Moore even after the atrocious sexual assault and molestation allegations that have been sent his way. Nate Cohn of The New York Times, who in an interview with Slate didn’t see any warning signs for Moore, now pretty much says this race is a tossup:
My take on Alabama from earlier today— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) November 15, 2017
Basically: idfk https://t.co/d9QDixx2zU
It’s not easy to come up with recent favorable precedents for Democratic victories in the Deep South. Perhaps the best involves David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican who managed to lose the governor’s race by 12 points in 2015. Mr. Obama lost Louisiana by 17 points in 2012. Mr. Vitter was dogged by a prostitution scandal from nearly a decade earlier.
Another promising precedent for Democrats happens to be Mr. Moore himself. He won by only four points in his 2012 campaign for Alabama chief justice, and that was without the sexual harassment allegations that have shaken his current Senate campaign. It was the worst performance by an Alabama Republican running for statewide office since 2008.
Black voters represented a larger share of the election in both of these contests than they have in the post-Obama era, so one might assume that Democrats would fare a couple of points worse with today’s turnout patterns.
Even so, Democrats faredwell even though neither Mr. Vitter nor Mr. Moore in 2012 was as weak as Mr. Moore is today. Now, national political conditions are plainly more favorable for the Democrats. And this is a special election, when surprising results are a little more common.
Whether Mr. Moore will have the resources necessary to appeal to Alabama’s deep conservatism is an open question. Even if he does, it’s possible that the allegations against him are just bad enough to ensure defeat. But if Mr. Moore does have the money and the opening to make the case that Mr. Jones is too liberal, I wouldn’t count him out.
Well, regarding resources, Moore is virtually cut off. The NRSC and the Republican National Committee have cut off aid, with the GOP leadership on the Hill calling for him to step aside. No money and no ground game operation from the RNC—and these allegations have only become worse. We’ve gone from allegations of molestation, to outright sexual assault allegations, and finally to him reportedly being banned from a mall in Gadsden because he was badgering teenage girls for dates (UPDATE: former Gadsden Mall manager denies there was a ban, though one of Moore's accusers says he was barred). This is as bad as it can get. Okay—so, what’s plan B? I can understand why so many Republicans want Moore to step aside and vanish into the ether. In fact, that might be the right decision; Jeff Sessions in his House testimony this week on the Russia probe was asked about this and said he has no reason to doubt Moore’s accusers. Just focusing on the political and not the moral aspect for a second, you have Moore creating more heartburn for Republicans. If they seat him, it could be spun as a national political party endorsing sexual assault and quasi-pedophiliac behavior, or at least that’s what you can expect from the Left. On the other hand, it’ll deepen the rift between the base and the establishment. Moore won an election fair and square, even with the horrid accusations. You’re going to deny the people of Alabama their representative in the Senate? Either way, the optics—everything just looks awful for the GOP in this race. And yes—it’s still quite possible that Moore pulls this off. Yet, we can’t deny that this whole race has devolved into something ugly—and it’s going to leave egg on everyone’s faces.
We can't believe we're doing this, but at least for now AL-SEN--that's ALABAMA--Leans D (Doug Jones). The GOP may find a way out of this mess, but the party--thanks to Roy Moore--is on the verge of blowing what was once a sure thing. More tomorrow in the Crystal Ball.— Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) November 15, 2017