Tuberville Beats Sessions for AL GOP Senate Nomination

Tommy Tuberville is likely the next Senator from the state of Alabama.

In yesterday’s Republican primary run-off for the chance to challenge sitting Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), Tommy Tuberville bested Jeff Sessions 60.74% to 39.26% (with all precincts reporting). These results comport with the limited polling that had been done of this race and was a massive repudiation of Sessions, who had held the seat for two decades before resigning in 2017 to becomes Trump’s first attorney general.

This puts Tuberville, a retired college football coach (with a notable stint at Auburn University in Alabama) and a political novice on a clear pathway to the US Senate. While the seat is currently occupied by a Democrat, the probabilities have always been that the Republicans would recapture the seat in 2020.

Readers of this site/general observers of national politics will recall that Sessions’ move to the AG slot led to a special election to fill the seat, that Doug Jones narrowly won over Roy Moore. Without getting into a huge amount of detail, Moore was a problematic candidate who managed to win the run-off primary for the nomination in the context of a wider scandal within Alabama GOP politics that damaged Luther Strange (the appointed temporary replacement for Sessions). Moore then had to deal with allegations concerning inappropriate interest in women much younger than himself earlier in his career.

The short version of all that being: Jones was only able to win due to a confluence of several almost-impossible to recreate circumstances: a special election, a scandal involving the governor who appointed Strange, and a panoply of credible accusations of disturbing behavior by Moore. Even with all of that, Jones only won 49.9% to 48.4% (with 1.7% going to write-in candidates).

Trump won Alabama in 2016 by 28 percentage points. Current polling has Trump up by 14 in the state at the moment (which, if it holds, would be a remarkable outcome in terms of being low, actually) and Tuberville up by 10 over Jones. It would be truly remarkable for a Democrat win a statewide race in a presidential year. I expect those gaps to grow in the Republican’s direction, in fact.

I cannot see a reasonable scenario wherein the Democrats retain this seat.

Aside from all of that, the run-off is a fascinating chapter in the era of Trump. Sessions was an early key supporter and yet illustrates the folly of allying with Trump. This was especially true if one attempts to behave ethically, which is what Sessions did in recusing himself from matters linked to the Russia investigation. Regardless of one’s views of Sessions’ politics (and the fact that Stephen Miller was once his communication’s director may give one a sense of such) it is still the case that Sessions did try to behave like a normal cabinet member, and it got him fired. Further, despite attempts to base his election as a pro-Trump Republican, Sessions also earned the ire and opposition of his former boss.

Meanwhile, Tuberville is, at least in form, a clear manifestation of Trumpism in the sense that his campaign is fueled by a combination of bravado and celebrity. There is no there there save simplistic policy positions and platitudes. He is a pure amateur in the arena of politics and governing.

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FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Well, as I said previously, Tuberville was a football coach. In Alabama, that qualifies him for anything: orthopedic surgeon, nuclear physicist, medievalist, epidemiologist, psychotherapist, art historian, corporate lawyer, what have you.

    11
  2. Joe says:

    I would like to feel bad for Sessions, but you can’t always do what you want.

    9
  3. SKI says:

    I cannot see a reasonable scenario wherein the Democrats retain this seat.

    Probably not but if the Democratic Party of Alabama keep up this approach… maybe.

    Sen. Jones got justice for four little girls murdered during church by the Klan.

    Tommy Tuberville thought a one-game suspension was enough when one of his players raped a little girl.

    Which one cares more about your daughter’s future?
    https://t.co/BKJ9CF6tGs?amp=1

    And this

    You, scared of your own shadow: “Can an incumbent Democratic Senator win a red state?”

    Us, ready to storm hell with a super-soaker: “Tuberville couldn’t score a TD for 2 weeks with 4 first rounders on his offense. He also lost to Vanderbilt.”
    #OneAlabama

    And this

    He lost his last Iron Bowl 36-0, collects millions of dollars in pension money from hard-working Alabamians, and bilked investors based on their trust in his investment advice.

    Tubs, Doug’s gonna run through you like Fred Talley at an 11AM Jefferson-Pilot game. #OneAlabama

    and this

    Tommy Tuberville said he’d leave Ole Miss “in a pine box.” Days later, he left for Auburn. Never told his players goodbye.

    At Auburn, he had a wandering eye every year.

    At Texas Tech, he ditched a recruit during dinner to leave for Cincinnati.

    Wonder who he’s lying to now?

    10
  4. DrDaveT says:

    Without getting into a huge amount of detail, Moore was a problematic candidate

    These are the Trump Times. No GOP candidate is any more problematic than any other, with the possible exception of Mitt Romney.

    2
  5. SKI says:

    Sadness … copies of tweets from @aldemocrats in moderation.

    1
  6. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    “…pure amature…”? I think you mean amateur?

    1
  7. @DrDaveT:

    No GOP candidate is any more problematic than any other,

    My point was that Moore was a problematic candidate even to (some) other Republicans.

    3
  8. @Just Another Ex-Republican: I did (and do).

    Thanks.

    1
  9. Kathy says:

    He is a pure amateur in the arena of politics and governing.

    By modern Trumpian standards, that makes him overqualified. A qualified candidate would be completely ignorant of politics and especially governing.

    5
  10. CSK says:

    The other day whilst he was beating the drum for Tuberville, Trump made repeated references to another great Alabama coach, Lou Saban. Unfortunately, Lou S. was head coach of the Buffalo Bills and never went near Alabama, far as I can tell, although he did lose to Bama once when he was at the University of Miami.

    Apparently el Presidente meant Nick Saban, whom Trump hosted at the White House in 2018. Tuberville did not correct his master.

    1
  11. senyordave says:

    This is from a WaPo article in February about Tuberville’s campaign:
    Still, this month, when Tuberville started his tour, he made sure to get Trump’s name on the bus. Then, during one of his first stops, he said that communities that practice sharia law make it so “you can’t drive through a neighborhood.”
    “Why?” he went on. “Because terrorism has taken over.”
    Apparently, the estimated 8,000 – 12,000 Muslims in Alabama, representing about 0.2% of the state’s population, must be making life miserable for the remaining 99.8% of the people in the state.
    Tuberville sounds like just the sort of shining light we have come to expect from the Alabama GOP.

    2
  12. steve says:

    This is kind of like when Iraq was fighting Iran. It was a shame they both couldnt lose.

    Steve

    3
  13. Scott F. says:

    @Kathy:
    I’d revise slightly. A qualified candidate would be completely ignorant of politics and especially governing, while nevertheless certain they’d be better at it than anyone who came before them.

    6
  14. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: And we are starting to see modest indications that Trump may be a problematic candidate even to (some fewer number of) other Republicans. A 28% advantage in 2016 is now 14%? That’s a big deal.

    I’m not saying Jones retaining his seat is likely at all, but are Tuberville gains going forward a given? If Tuberville is going to attach himself by the lips to POTUS and the 2020 election is the referendum on Trump we expect it to be, maybe Jones can draw closer.

    Jones winning AL is the kind of result I’d hope would come from the Trump and His Enablers repudiating result the country needs in November.

    2
  15. @Scott F.:

    A 28% advantage in 2016 is now 14%? That’s a big deal.

    It is, but only symbolically (and the degree to which it hopefully reflects a broader national trend).

    But in terms of Bama specifically: it is still 14 points. (And the gap will likely widen by the time we get to election day).

    Jones winning AL is the kind of result I’d hope would come from the Trump and His Enablers repudiating result the country needs in November.

    It would be a welcome outcome because it would represent a truly significant repudiation of Trump.

    1
  16. MarkedMan says:

    Tuberville is the perfect Republican candidate. No record of public service whatsoever. In fact, no indication that he has ever done anything for anyone except himself. No experience in politics but immediately goes for the top job in the state. Has no positive agenda. Campaigns exclusively on racism and lies. Achieved his success in a deeply corrupt system. Is vapid and shallow and appears to be tremendously incurious.

    But he has made it clear he will do everything to keep the current class system in place and is in favor of punishing those who get above their station. Alabamians will elect him by 15 points because, let’s face it, every year thousands of Alabamians who want to do better for their state give up and move to somewhere else, leaving behind the toxic majority.

    2
  17. An Interested Party says:

    It would be a welcome outcome because it would represent a truly significant repudiation of Trump.

    The GOP and Republicans would need to experience a lot more pain before they would repudiate Trump…

  18. @An Interested Party:

    The GOP and Republicans would need to experience a lot more pain before they would repudiate Trump…

    If Trump ends up doing badly enough in November that Jones retains his seat, it will be in the context of truly monumentally bad night for Trump. Epically bad.

    Trump could lose, the Dems wins the Senate, and Tuberville still beat Jones. But bad enough of a beating that would lead to Jones winning, too, would be an amazingly bad night for Rs.

    2
  19. @An Interested Party:

    The GOP and Republicans would need to experience a lot more pain before they would repudiate Trump…

    Oh, and if they lose in November, forget humiliation, just losing, there will be plenty of repudiation of Trump after that. If he loses, he is worthless to the party and they will turn on him just as fast as they turned to support him. That doesn’t mean they will learn the right lessons, of course.

    6
  20. CSK says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I don’t see his followers repudiating him. Not the way they worship him. Everyone else would repudiate him.

  21. An Interested Party says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Losing the presidency and the Senate would be a nice amount of pain for Republicans to finally repudiate Trump, but look at where we are…the only two Republican presidents of this century both won even though their competitor got more votes than they did and both GOP presidents will end up being repudiated by both their own political party as well as the country as a whole…wow, if that isn’t dysfunctional, I don’t know what is…

  22. Scott F. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    If he loses, he is worthless to the party and they will turn on him just as fast as they turned to support him. That doesn’t mean they will learn the right lessons, of course.

    There’s the rub right there. Trump will be worthless to the Republicans as soon as he loses, but his supporters are still indispensable to their current coalition. Trump going down in flames and taking some hardcore Trumpkins like Tuberville down with him is the only way I see the GOP learning that it might be in their interests to stop cranking their ideological steering wheel to the right.

    This scenario is a pipe dream I suspect and not just in Alabama. But, if the response the GOP comes up for a loss in 2020 is Trump 2.0 – now with better manners, less corruption and more competence – then the country is still screwed.

  23. An Interested Party says:

    But, if the response the GOP comes up for a loss in 2020 is Trump 2.0 – now with better manners, less corruption and more competence – then the country is still screwed.

    Tom Cotton? Josh Hawley? They do seem to possess better manners, less corruption, and more competence than Trump, but they are also just as odious…

    1
  24. Paine says:

    And here I thought Mike Leach was bad…

  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @CSK: In an attempt to be fair to the President, I’m such a great football fan (I must watch 2 or 3 games a season, if I remember any are on or happen across one) that I probably would not know Nick Saban from Lou Saban either. Or from Tommy Tuberville or Lou Holtz for that matter, so I can’t bring myself to fault him for getting the name wrong and would appreciate that Tuberville did not embarrass me by pointing it out.

    In a effort to normalize my relationship to Trump, I also cannot imagine name dropping a person that I don’t actually know several times, either.

  26. Scott F. says:

    @An Interested Party:
    Liz Cheney is the one who worries me…

  27. Kathy says:

    @Scott F.:

    You win the internet today 🙂

  28. CSK says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:
    Ah, but Trump knows everything about football, just as he knows everything about everything. Or he says he does.

    BREAKING NEWS: Trump has dumped Brad Parscale as campaign manager and replaced him with Bill Stepien. Parscae will stay on as senior advisor and lead digital operations.

  29. An Interested Party says:

    @Scott F.: Ack, I had forgotten about her, although she’s against Trump so any rump faction of his left in the party will oppose her…still, there certainly are a lot of landmines in the GOP…

  30. de stijl says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    Be super careful when searching “pure amateur” which will bring up a site that is adult only.