While this site is devoted to helping Democrats plot strategy, it’s important to recognize that on occasion the quality of opposition can make the toughest contests easier. As I noted at New York, that could definitely be happening again in Alabama:
To the great joy of Alabama Democrats and aficionados of strange politics everywhere, former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore announced today that he will again run for the U.S. Senate in 2020. It’s hardly anything new for the 72-year-old theocrat and alleged mall creeper. This will be his sixth run for statewide office in Alabama, counting two successful races for the state bench (though the first time he was removedfrom office, and the second time suspended, as he regularly defied federal court orders related to his theocratic views), two unsuccessful gubernatorial bids, and then his 2017 Senate race in the special election to choose a replacement for then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
In this last campaign, he managed to upset Donald Trump’s handpicked candidate in a primary and runoff, and then lost a shocker to Democrat Doug Jones, whom he now seeks to take on again. He is as ornery as ever, as the New York Times reports:
“His decision was an unsurprising act of overt defiance toward many of his party’s national leaders, including President Trump, who recently publicly warned him away from another Senate bid.
“Republican officials fear that Mr. Moore, were he to win the party’s nomination in March, risks their prospects of defeating the Democratic incumbent, Senator Doug Jones, and recapturing a seat they long controlled with ease …
“Before he made his announcement, Mr. Moore detailed his grievances against Republican officials in Washington, and he predicted that the campaign arm of Senate Republicans would run ‘a smear campaign’ against him.”
That’s hardly a paranoid statement, since Moore is broadly viewed as the Republican candidate most likely to help Jones to a full-term in this very red state. But Judge Roy is trying to turn that into a token of Christian martyrdom, as al.com reports:
“’Everyone in Alabama knows that last election in 2017 was fraudulent,’ Moore said. He added disinformation tactics will not be tolerated and will be punished. When asked if he believed the fraud came solely from Democrats, Moore said he thought there was also Republican collusion.”
It’s likely that at least some of the allegations of sexual misconduct that bedeviled him in 2017, which ranged from sexual assault to predatory behavior toward teenagers at the local mall, will return. But Moore is heartened by the ability of a certain Supreme Court Justice to overcome similar allegations, according to a recent fundraising missive:
“’It was no strange coincidence that only 10 months later these same false and scurrilous tactics would again be used in the midst of a very important Supreme Court nomination process of Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Judge Kavanaugh would survive to be appointed to that high court.’”
In truth, Moore was considered an extreme and eccentric character even by Alabama’s tolerant standards — albeit one with a strong electoral base in the fever swamps of the Christian right — before the sexual allegations arose. The general feeling is that he made it to the general election against Jones in 2017 mostly because his major Trump-backed opponent, appointed incumbent Senator Luther Strange, was unusually weak, mostly because of suspicions of a corrupt deal with the disgraced governor, Robert Bentley, to get the job.
This time around, the Republican field facing Moore is less tainted, if not overpowering. The presumed GOP Establishment candidate is Congressman Bradley Byrne, who like everyone else in his party in the state, is a slavish Trump loyalist. Hard-core conservatives, including 2017 also-ran Congressman Mo Brooks, are backing state legislator Arnold Mooney. Former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville will begin the race with name ID nearly as high as Moore’s in this gridiron-mad state. And the latest hot rumor was begun this week by Jones’s Republican Senate colleague Richard Shelby, as the Washington Post reported:
“Former attorney general Jeff Sessions has not ruled out running next year for his old Senate seat from Alabama, the state’s senior senator said Wednesday, as Republicans braced for the expected entrance into the race of Roy Moore, their failed 2017 candidate.
“’Sessions, I don’t think, has ruled it out,’ Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters. ‘I’ve talked to him about it. I think if he ran, he would be a formidable candidate. Formidable. I’ve not encouraged him to run, but he’s a friend, and if he ran, I think he’d probably clear the field.'”
Sessions has declined to comment on the speculation so far, which will only encourage it. He may be trying to figure out what his old boss the president, who said so many hateful things about him after holding him responsible for the Mueller investigation, might say about a Sessions political comeback.
Even Sessions probably won’t intimidate Roy Moore into withdrawing, though. He’s very much on a mission from God, and it’s an angry, vengeful God he worships. Moore’s out for blood, and he doesn’t much care if it’s red or blue.
For Democrats who really need to hang onto this seat to improve their odds of taking back the Senate in 2020, this is good news indeed.