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Fox News Poll Shows Alabama Senate Race Tied, But Skepticism Is Still Called For

Roy Moore Doug Jones

A new poll from Fox News Channel shows the race between former Alabama Chief Justice and Republican nominee Roy Moore and Democratic candidate Doug Jones to be tied, but it’s still not clear that this race is as competitive as polling indicates:

Democrat Doug Jones — once thought to be a longshot in the Deep South — has tied Republican nominee and former judge Roy Moore in Alabama’s US Senate race, a new poll shows.

The two are tied at 42% each among registered voters, the Fox News poll published Tuesday, conducted by Democratic firm Anderson Robbins Research and GOP firm Shaw & Company Research.

Moore and Jones will face off in a special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former seat December 12.

The poll confirms Republicans’ fears that Moore — who campaigns on a theocratic, anti-LGBT message and has twice been ousted as state Supreme Court chief justice, once for refusing to remove a Ten Commandments monument and once for refusing to follow the Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage — would be a uniquely vulnerable candidate in a state President Donald Trump won last year by 28 percentage points.

Jones, a former prosecutor who convicted two former Klansmen in the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, has sought to portray Moore as someone who would embarrass Alabama on the national stage.

“I can work with Republicans better than Roy Moore can work with anyone,” Jones says in a new TV ad.

The poll found that just 53% of registered voters said they were extremely or very interested in the race. Among those voters, Jones has a one-point lead over Moore at 46% to 45%.

Moore defeated Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill Sessions’ seat until the special election, in a September 26 primary runoff. His win came despite Trump having visited Huntsville to campaign for Strange. Moore was backed by Steve Bannon, Trump’s former White House chief strategist. And he has campaigned on removing Mitch McConnell as Senate majority leader.

This isn’t the first poll to show a tighter than expected race in what has long been a deeply red state. As I noted last month, polls taken in the immediate aftermath of Moore’s victory over Senator Luther Strange in the runoff primary election showed Jones within six points of Moore, an unusual result in a state that is normally solidly Republican. As Fox News notes in its own report on the poll, the fact that polls are even indicating that Jones could be competitive is striking:

The competitiveness of the race is striking.  Donald Trump won Alabama by 28 points in 2016, yet the Steve Bannon-backed Moore defeated the president’s favored candidate, incumbent Luther Strange, in the GOP primary.

“This race exemplifies the difficulty the Republican Party has now,” says Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News Poll with Democrat Chris Anderson.

“There is an element of the party that has had it with the establishment, had it with politics as usual, had it with political correctness. The fissure within the party means divisive primaries, controversial candidates, and hard choices for GOP voters once the general election rolls around.”

Jones is helped by greater party loyalty, and hesitancy among Moore’s own backers.

The poll, released Tuesday, shows 42 percent of Moore’s supporters have some reservations about their candidate.  For Jones, that number is 28 percent.

Plus, 21 percent of those in the Jones camp say they’re voting against Moore as opposed to for Jones.  That’s three times the number of Moore supporters who say their vote is based on dislike of Jones (7 percent).

Nearly half of those backing Jones (47 percent) and Moore (48 percent) say they “strongly” support their candidate.

he main reasons Moore supporters give for backing him include party loyalty (41 percent) and his Christian beliefs (20 percent).  Among Jones supporters, it is party loyalty (35 percent) and their belief Moore is extreme (32 percent).

In a Republican stronghold like Alabama, it helps Jones that Democrats are more likely to back him (85 percent) than Republicans are to support Moore (77 percent).  Independents go for Jones by 33-26 percent (27 percent undecided).

Moore tops Jones among white evangelical Christians (+51), white men without a college degree (+48), and gun owners (+16).

Jones is preferred among blacks (+66), voters under age 45 (+14), and women (+3).

About 1 in 10 Trump voters defects to the Democratic candidate (11 percent).  That’s nearly three times the number of Clinton voters who are supporting Moore (4 percent).

Two months out, roughly 1 in 10 Alabamans is undecided about their vote in the Senate race (11 percent).

Thirty-three percent are unfamiliar with the Democratic candidate, while 12 percent say the same about Moore.

Still, more view Jones positively than negatively by 25 points (46-21 percent).  Moore has a net positive of 10 points (49 percent favorable vs. 39 percent unfavorable).

About as many Alabama voters view Trump positively as negatively (48-47 percent).  Four in 10 have a “strongly” unfavorable opinion of the president.

Are Moore’s attempts to define Jones as a liberal working?  The poll finds 29 percent say Jones is too liberal for Alabama.

On the other hand, 39 percent of voters feel Moore is out of step with Alabama today.  Even 24 percent of Republicans feel that way.

The Fox News poll is the first new poll to be taken in Alabama since those previous September polls, but it’s led to some speculation and hope that Moore could end up going down to defeat in the Special Election on December 12th. According to the RealClearPolitics average, Moore now has only 4.4  point lead over Jones with an average of 46.7% of voters saying they support Moore while 42.3 % saying they support Jones. While these numbers are certainly encouraging for opponents of Moore, they ought to be taken with a grain of salt to say the very least.

Alabama has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Howell Heflin ran for re-election in 1990, and hasn’t had a Democratic Senator since 1994 when Richard Shelby, the state’s senior Senator, left the Democratic Party and ran for re-election as a Republican. Republicans have also maintained control over other statewide offices such as GovernorLt. Governor, and Attorney General since the early 1990s and the state’s Congressional delegation is dominated by Republican. The sole Democrat representing Alabama in Congress comes from the 7th Congressional District, which is dominated by African-Americans. Additionally, notwithstanding the fact that national Republicans largely backed incumbent Senator Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by Jeff Sessions when he became Attorney General, Moore has recently received several prominent endorsements from Capitol Hill Republicans, including Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul and Congressman Thomas Massie. Given all of that, and Alabama’s historic tendency in recent years to vote for Republican candidates in statewide elections, this polling showing Jones performing far better than a Democrat should in the state need to be backed up by some additional evidence before they can be believed. Nonetheless, given Moore’s controversial history, which now includes recent statements where he said that professional athletes who decline to stand for the National Anthem are breaking the law, one can only hope that this means that Alabamans might actually display some sanity in this race.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    one can only hope that this means that Alabamans might actually display some sanity in this race.

    People from Alabama…sane???
    hahahahahaha
    You crack me up.
    BTW…Alabama gets ~$1.66 in federal money for every dollar they send to Washington.
    So they are friggin’ insane, and they are welfare queens.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  2. michael reynolds says:

    It’s Alabama: they’ll vote for the stupidest, most ridiculous, most corrupt creep they can find, and that’s Roy Moore.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  3. wr says:

    There’s definitely room for skepticism, but hopefully this persuades the DNC and DSCC to pour some resources into the race. If Moore does win, make him fight for it, don’t just give it away.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. Neil Hudelson says:

    Alabama has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Howell Heflin ran for re-election in 1990, and hasn’t had a Democratic Senator since 1994 when Richard Shelby, the state’s senior Senator, left the Democratic Party and ran for re-election as a Republican.

    Heflin retired in 1997. He was still a Democrat when he retired, so they had a Democratic Senator in 1997. Unless I’m missing something? I’m not trying to be pedantic–I’ve seen a variant of this quote so many times in the last few weeks–here, TPM, possibly WaPo–and I’m trying to make sense of it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  5. CSK says:

    Maybe it will turn out to be one of those Christine “I am not a witch” O’Donnell deals, where she, an incompetent loony-tunes, won the Delaware Republican primary over the relatively sane Mike Castle–but got clobbered in the general by the Democrat, Chris Coons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  6. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: That was Delaware, a fairly solid blue state that hadn’t elected a Republican to statewide office since 1994. If O’Donnell had been the nominee in Alabama, I reckon she’d have won easily.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. Kylopod says:

    Doug,

    Let me repeat what I wrote last October when you cited a poll showing Trump barely ahead in Texas as proof that he was in serious trouble electorally: there’s a large number of undecideds in the poll, and it’s likely most of them are Republican-leaning voters who are reluctant to support Moore but who probably will in the end.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  8. @Kylopod: Yep: 11% undecided is a lot–and it seems unlikely that they would break for a Dem.

    Also: it is a registered voter poll, not a likely voter poll.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  9. SenyorDave says:

    @Kylopod: If O’Donnell had been the nominee in Alabama, I reckon she’d have won easily.

    Delaware has three counties, two are pretty rural, Kent and Sussex. O’Donnell took both of these counties, with a combined percentage of 59% of the vote. Fortunately, New Castle county went 66% to 31% in favor of Coons. And O’Donnell was truly one of the most ridiculous major party Senate candidates in memory. I think she would have won if she had run in Alabama. Any person with an R next to their name starts out with 45% of the vote.

    Alabama is very rural. I would bet my bottom dollar that Moore will win by at least five points unless he is caught in bed with a dead boy (a dead girl or live boy won’t cut it in Alabama).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. Sleeping Dog says:

    If Jones wins, hooray. If he doesn’t Alabama gets the Senator they deserve and McConnell a Senator he deserves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  11. Ben Wolf says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Well, all the signs there said, “Welcome in,
    Signed Governor Wallace and Rin-Tin-Tin
    Come along, and watch the fights;
    Where we feed our dogs on Civil Rights.
    Now, don’t get us wrong
    Some of our best Negroes are friends.

    So I asked ’em why they spent their time
    With Segregation on their mind.
    They said, “If you don’t like to live this way,
    Get outta here, go back to the U.S.A,
    Live with all them Russians and
    New York folk singers!”

    You see, Alabama is a sovereign state,
    With sovereign dogs and sovereign hate.
    They stand for the Bible, for the Constitution,
    They stand against communist reeeevolution.
    They say, “It’s Pinkoes like you
    That free the slaves!”

    And they’re right

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTXZ0OGlpHw

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  12. CSK says:

    Moore has just proclaimed that it’s against the law to kneel during the national anthem.

    Interesting comment from a guy who’s broken the law at least twice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  13. Kylopod says:

    @CSK: A half-century ago Moore would have been a Democrat blocking the doorway of a school to prevent Negro students from attending.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    Indeed, on the grounds that integration is a violation of God’s law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  15. DrDaveT says:

    Moore will win easily. The Basket of Deplorables is more like a cornucopia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  16. Tyrell says:

    I am not a fan of Judge Roy but he recently did something that I thought was very good. At a campaign stop he recognized a World War II veteran in the audience; a survivor of Bataan and Japanese pow camps. He pointed out that this brave soldier still stands for the National Anthem. Imagine that, even at his age close to 90! This would be a good lesson for some of these “professional” football players to see. Then they might change their tune. Maybe this Judge Roy is not the bad guy that some politicians and the news media portray him as.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3