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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Excess and Ennui in Alabama

Today is primary day in Alabama, Mississippi and New Mexico. Mississippi’s contests of national significance are pretty much limited to the Republican primaries to choose opponents for U.S. House members Travis Childers and Gene Taylor. New Mexico’s Republicans do have a gubernatorial primary in which county D.A. Susana Martinez is favored over self-funding former state party chair Allen Weh. The winner will face popular Democratic Lt. Gov. Diane Denish.
But most of the national focus tonight will probably be on Alabama, which has competitive gubernatorial primaries in both parties, several interesting congressional races, and even a couple of downballot constitutional officer races that have demanded out-of-state attention.
I’ve done a long write-up of the Alabama landscape over at FiveThirtyEight, and you can check it out there if you are interested.
But suffice it to say that there’s quite a constrast between the over-the-top nature of the campaign–particular in the highly competitive multi-candidate Republican gubernatorial primary–and the interest-level of the electorate. It’s revealing that the big moment of excitement was probably the viral rumor that candidate Tim James (an Auburn grad whose father, former governor Fob James, was an all-American football player at Auburn) was threatening to fire or cut the salary of Alabama football coach Nick Saban. When James put out the fire by donning a “Saban Rules” hat at a campaign event, public interest in the race seemed to subside.
Early reports are that voting in Alabama is very light, with some speculation that holding a statewide primary the day after a major holiday weekend might not be the best way to encourage maximum participation.
It’s hard to say who will benefit from low turnout, other than very well known candidates and ideologues. Low turnout is probably good for Judge Roy Moore in the governor’s race; his core vote will show up. Depending on the patterns, it could also represent good news for underdog Ron Sparks in the Democratic gubernatorial primary; very poor African-American turnout is congressman Artur Davis’ potential achilles heel.
Still, the betting going into this election is that Davis will win the Democratic nomination, with Republicans Bradley Byrne and Tim James extending their nasty and expensive grudge match into a six-week runoff campaign.

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