Poll Shows Democrat Doug Jones Within Six Points Of Roy Moore
The first poll after the runoff election in Alabama that saw controversial former Judge Roy Moore coast to victory over incumbent Senator Luther Strange in the race for the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions appears to give some hope to Moore’s Democratic challenger, but it’s far too early for Moore’s opponents to begin celebrating:
The Senate race in deep-red Alabama might be within reach for Democrats, after the Republican nomination of Roy Moore.
The poll, conducted by Opinion Savvy and commissioned by Decision Desk HQ, finds that Moore leads Democratic opponent Doug Jones 50.2% to 44.5%.
While still not a close-close race, that’s definitely closer than a normal Senate race in Alabama for an off year. The poll is of 590 likely voters in the state reached this week by landline and mobile, with a margin of error of 4 points. (Full methodology here.)
Though he is well-known and has a built-in set of supporters in the state, Moore has a long and complicated history in Alabama and nationally: He was twice removed from the state’s Supreme Court for refusing to follow federal rulings.
He’s suggested various national tragedies — including 9/11 — happened because of what he calls the United States turning away from Christianity. He’s written columns for World Net Daily, a fringe right-wing site known for pushing birther conspiracy theories about President Obama. And he has a long history of making anti-gay comments, as well as opposing Keith Ellison’s being in Congress because he is Muslim, and another man from serving in the George W. Bush administration because he was an “admitted homosexual.”
Jones, meanwhile, is a former US attorney backed in particular by former vice president Joe Biden. Winning in Alabama for a Democrat, though, even with an extreme candidate like Moore on the ticket, seems like a tall feat.
“Any time you get a result that seems to run totally contrary to the conventional wisdom of a state’s politics, it gives you pause,” said Brandon Finnigan, the executive director of Decision Desk. “However, Roy Moore barely won his election as chief justice to the state Supreme Court in 2012, underperforming presidential candidate Mitt Romney by 18 points. I still have difficulty seeing him lose in Alabama — even in the surprisingly close South Carolina 5th Congressional special, the Republican still won. But in a special held 13 days before Christmas? Who knows.”
Previous polling of a head-to-head match between Moore and Jones showed Moore winning handily. Much of that was offset, however, by a combination of both a high number of undecided voters and the fact that Jones had remained a relatively unknown while the news was focused largely on the Republican race and the runoff between Moore and Strange. With that race over and Jones now receiving more support from national Democrats, it’s not surprising to see his support rising. Additionally, the fact that Moore is such a controversial figure is likely to draw attention to the race as well as support from Democrats across the country as well, possibly, as some Republicans who are horrified at the idea of Moore actually getting elected to the Senate. It’s unlikely, though, that this increased attention, and the resources that will likely come with it, will ultimately be enough to overcome what seems like a natural advantage for Moore in the December 12th Special Election.
Writing in The Washington Post Alabama author Roy Hoffman, who opposes Moore, holds out hope that his state will stand up against the theocracy and bigotry that Moore represents:
[Alabama] now is a bellwether for the nation: coming together vs. staying apart. When O’Brien asked me what our state does well and what it doesn’t, I spoke of Alabama’s famous and often well-deserved reputation for hospitality. Newcomers such as the immigrants of my grandparents’ generation arriving at Mobile’s downtown blocks and speaking little English felt welcomed enough to stay and put down roots. “Come on in, y’all!” But running against that grain, I added, was the counter-impulse of a culture anxious about outsiders and fearful of those who look, act, pray or speak differently, even if they live on the other side of town. “Trespassers beware!”
This push-pull, this embracing change or bracing against it will still be with us whether our next senator, as predicted, is the far-right Moore, a longtime public figure who’s made no secret of his disdain for Muslims, gays and those whose sense of faith differs from his evangelical Christian fervor, or mainstream Democrat Doug Jones, in a possible upset. Either way, I feel strongly that an ever-increasing openness, a cultural diversity, is inching forward, if not evidenced by raw numbers, then in the kinds of people who increasingly call Alabama home.
Whether these changes that Hoffman speaks of would be enough to pull Jones over the top remains to be seen, but the truth is that things do not look all that optimistic. Alabama has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since the late and legendary Howell Heflin ran for re-election for the final time 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. Additionally, Republicans have largely dominated other statewide offices such as Governor, Lt. Governor, and Attorney General since the early 1990s and the state’s Congressional delegation is dominated by Republicans, with the sole Democrat representing the 7th Congressional District, which is dominated by African-Americans. Given that, the odds are that the Republican candidate will win the Special Election this year notwithstanding the fact that this candidate is both a radically far-right theocrat and a former Chief Justice who was twice removed from office for refusing to comply with the orders of a Federal Court. Nonetheless, one can hold out hope that Alabamans will see the light and that Jones will find a way to defeat Moore.