Yes, Democrat Doug Jones Can Actually Win In Alabama

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Someone at the National Republican Senatorial Committee leaked a poll to POLITICO yesterday showing that support for alleged violent pedophile Roy Moore has collapsed. But buried in the bad news is an indication that Democrat Doug Jones was already doing pretty well, regardless.

“The poll shows a dramatic turn against Moore in Alabama: In early October, a committee poll had him leading by 16 points, and a survey early this month had him up by 9 points,” Alex Isenstadt reports.

In other words, a swing was underway before the Washington Post reported last week on the first four of nine women who have come forward with stories about inappropriate behavior from Moore. Jones was still behind in most polling, but he had all the momentum in the race.

This is not surprising. Moore is a lazy campaigner who prefers to stump within the epistemic bubble of Christian academies, closed-door events, and prayer calls. Jones has used a very different approach.

“In addition to the rally with [Rep. John] Lewis, he has appeared in both Montgomery and Birmingham — two cities with among the highest proportion of African-American residents in the country,” Gabriel Debenedetti and Daniel Strauss report this morning, also at POLITICO. “In the last week, he has also visited the far reaches of the state, from Mobile in its southwest corner to Fyffe in the northeast.”

Whereas Moore relies heavily on his pastor network to get out the vote, the Jones campaign has been knocking on doors and phone banking at an intensity level Democrats have not seen in a very long time. Enthusiasm for Jones was already very high among state Democrats in the weeks before Moore’s past peccadilloes became public, so Jones has a wealth of volunteers, and he’s putting them to good use.

While Jones does not want the national Democratic Party to come parachuting into Alabama, they are fundraising for him, and civil rights legend Rep. Lewis has been helping mobilize African American voters. They are one of the keys to a Jones victory, as POLITICO explains.

[Victory] will mean making inroads in regions with high shares of college-educated white voters, including Shelby County, Madison County (home of Huntsville), Jefferson County (home of Birmingham), and Montgomery (home of Montgomery city). And it will entail driving down turnout in the more rural parts of Alabama where support for Moore … is strongest.

He also needs to “create a permission structure for alienated Republicans who are skeptical of Moore — primarily those who voted against him in the GOP primary — to cross the aisle,” they explain. And in recent days, Jones has aired TV ads in which Republicans share their reasons for doing just that.

By contrast, Moore is paying for relatively few ads that all harp on tired culture war clichés: antipathy to liberalism, ending Obamacare, and evangelical priorities. This kind of “narrowcasting” can activate base voters, but it’s not good at enlarging your electorate.

There is also a visual metric available for national reporters. If they criss-cross the state by car, as this writer has a few times in the last 90 days, they will observe a profusion of Jones signs. Between the Republican runoff in late September and the first week of November, I did not see a single new Moore sign anywhere along the major roads of the Tennessee river corridor in North Alabama. Along the 20-mile stretch of highway between Elgin and Hatton, I counted five Jones signs and zero Moore signs ten days ago. By my count, there are more Doug Jones signs in the Riverview neighborhood of Florence than there are Roy Moore signs in the entire city.

Granted, yard signs do not vote. There are many commentators casting doubt on the NRSC’s poll, too. At the close of her newscast, Rachel Maddow expressed little confidence last night that the people of Alabama will elect Doug Jones, even with nine women now accusing Roy Moore of improprieties.

But Jones was already making this US senate race into an actual race before we knew about all that. And because of that strong candidacy, he is well-positioned to take advantage of Moore’s implosion. Do not underestimate him.

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Featured image via Doug Jones Facebook

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