Democrat Doug Jones, the former federal prosecutor who convicted the Klansmen responsible for the 1963 Birmingham Baptist Church bombing, is within striking distance of both Republican opponents according to a poll released this week.
The Emerson College Polling Society, which conducted an automated landline survey of likely voters in Alabama, found that Jones is just three points behind incumbent Luther Strange and four points behind Roy Moore, the Ten Commandments judge.
That’s astounding for a state where Donald Trump enjoys better than 51% approval, Republicans enjoy supermajorities in both chambers of the state house, and no Democrat has won any statewide office in almost a decade.
Alabama has not sent a Democrat to the US Senate since liberal lion Howell Heflin retired in 1996, opening the seat that Jeff Sessions won.
A bitter primary race seems to be dividing Republican voters and pushing them towards the Democrat.
“Of those voting for Moore in the primary, 25% said they will vote for Jones and 49% said they would vote for Strange in the General,” the Emerson report reads. “Similarly, Strange supporters found 31% voting for Jones and 34% voting for Moore.”
Efforts by the national party to put a thumb on the scale for Strange are probably contributing to the divide.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell turned the full force of his political machine against Moore in the weeks before the primary. Now Alabama television channels are covered in Senate Leadership Fund ads that call Moore’s lifestyle into question, pointing out that he has made more than a million dollars from his sketchy nonprofit organization while flitting about the country on a private jet.
On Google, paid ads push users in Alabama to MooreHypocrisy.com, a site that frames the culture warrior as an opponent of Trump’s border wall.
Pushing back against the party establishment, Moore met with Steve Bannon of Breitbart.com last Thursday to discuss a strategy for the September 26 runoff. The website has posted at least five stories in the last three days to tout his polling lead over Strange, convey an endorsement, and cast Luther Strange as a “swamp monster.”
Survey respondents who voted for Tea Party favorite Rep. Mo Brooks in the August primary are not moving as a block. Instead, they “appear to be splitting their vote between Moore and Strange, with about 1/3rd breaking for each” and the rest undecided.
Even Trump’s endorsement does not seem to be helping Strange, as “voters who approve of the President are breaking for Moore 51% to 32%.”
By contrast, Democrats are united behind Jones, who won his primary outright and still has a substantial campaign war chest.
The result is that “Democrat Doug Jones will start in a competitive position for the General election as he trails Strange 40% to 43%, and Moore 40% to 44%” — well within the Emerson survey’s 4.8% margin of error.
With an 84% success rate, the Emerson College Polling Society has a B rating at FiveThirtyEight.com, which regards them as Republican-leaning.
You can read the full polling results below.
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