Now that Alabama Republicans have nominated the worst person in the entire state as their Senate nominee because of course they did, the next question is whether voters at large in the deep-red state will find the Talibanesque Roy Moore too humiliating a figure to vote for and maybe consider voting for a not-insane person instead. The role of not-insane person in this case will be played by Democratic nominee Doug Jones, who as U.S. attorney prosecuted Klan members responsible for the 1963 murder of four black children in the bombing of a Birmingham church.
Does Jones have a chance in a state where Republicanism has become synonymous with crooked politicians and lunatic theocrats? You’d think so, but in practice It’s very much an uphill battle.
Republican polling has found everything from a close Moore-Jones race to a looming Moore landslide. On Tuesday, Republican pollster Whit Ayres told CNBC that Moore’s victory might well “put the seat in play.” There has been no independent Democratic polling.
Alabama hasn’t voted for a Democratic senator in a very long time, due to extreme hostility from the state’s white voters toward the Democratic Party for historic reasons that we all are fully familiar with. The national party is therefore wary of dumping money into what could be a futile effort to pry Alabama away from the state’s crazies, even with a crackpot like the pistol-waving Moore representing the Republican side. But Jones believes he has a shot, because the Alabama Republican Party is, well, a wreck. It’s not just the manifestly unfit Moore, but a state party now synonymous with misrule:
“Roy Moore’s taken social stands that are completely out of step with Alabama,” said Jones. “And the Republican Party has just completely destroyed the public’s confidence in its leadership. This is the least transparent, least ethical group we’ve seen in Montgomery for a generation.”
And as a candidate, Jones is no slouch. In addition to his bonafides as U.S. attorney, he’s not shy about appealing to voters based on his own Democratic principles.
[M]ore of the enthusiasm was rooted in Jones himself, a civil rights attorney whose low-key campaign so far has been defiantly progressive. Jones opposes the Hyde Amendment, which prevents any federal funding for abortion; while stopping short of endorsing Sanders’s “Medicare for All” bill, he supported the Democratic effort to save the Affordable Care Act, and criticized Alabama for declining to expand Medicaid. In an interview, he said he’d have voted against Betsy DeVos’s nomination for secretary of education, and might have opposed Neil M. Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
In a recent email interview with Cameron Smith, Jones stated his support for DACA and for the DREAM Act, for the Paris Climate Accord, and for abortion rights.
The short answer is that we still don’t know if Jones can make a race against Moore close. That’s just the reality of Alabama, as a state. But both parties and a great many political groups are now hurriedly digging through the numbers to find out, because if there’s any possible way for Republicans to lose a Senate seat in Alabama, of all places, Roy Moore might be it.