Conservative grassroots champion Judge Roy Moore leads establishment pick Senator Luther Strange (R-AL) in the Alabama U.S. Senate Republican primary runoff election by ten points in the Real Clear Politics average of polls as voters cast their ballots today in the Yellowhammer State.
On Monday night, an all-star gallery of conservative grassroots leaders gathered in Fairhope, Alabama to lend their vocal support at a rally headlined by Moore on the eve of the election.
Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon, United Kingdom Brexit leader Nigel Farage, former head of the independent UKIP party, and Duck Dynasty reality TV star Phil Robertson all joined in to tell the enthusiastic crowd of Judge Moore’s supporters why they have endorsed the West Point graduate and man who championed the Ten Commandments in today’s election to select the Republican nominee who will take on Democrat Doug Jones in the December 12 general election. The winner of that election will be seated in the United States Senate as the replacement for former Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), now Attorney General.
You can watch the complete video recording of that rally here:
One regular reader of The Tennessee Star made the trek down to Fairhope on Monday, and provided us with photos of the Judge Roy Moore rally.
Strange, the former Alabama Attorney General, was appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Senator Sessions by Governor Robert Bentley. That appointment has proven highly controversial.
As Alabama Attorney General, Strange was charged with investigating alleged misconduct by Bentley, but in November he told the Alabama House of Representatives to “stand down” from its own investigations into the matter when he came under consideration as a candidate for appointment to Sessions’ former U.S. Senate seat by Bentley.
Charges of a quid pro quo arrangement were loudly tossed around the state when Bentley announced he had appointed Strange to the Senate.
Bentley’s removal of Strange from his position as Alabama Attorney General via this upward promotion ultimately did not forestall his resignation as governor in a plea deal arrangement with the new Alabama Attorney General two months later in April.
The controversy surrounding his appointment, combined with his years as a Washington lobbyist and the millions of dollars poured into the campaign on his behalf by the Senate Leadership Fund, a SuperPAC associated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has solidified Strange’s reputation in the state as the establishment’s candidate.
The onslaught of attack ads against Moore funded by McConnell’s SuperPAC and the surprise announcement that President Trump would come to Huntsville, Alabama on Friday to campaign with Strange had the effect of tightening the gap over the past two weeks between Moore and Strange.
What had been a double digit lead was cut to about 8 points by Friday of last week.
President Trump’s vigorous support for Strange announced at the Huntsville rally Friday night could have had the effect of narrowing the gap further. But as is often the case in politics, an unexpected statement by the president at the rally appears to have had the effect of changing the conversation in Alabama from his support for Strange to his criticism of NFL players who knell or refuse to stand when the national anthem is played at their games.
That one line by the president has catapulted a huge national debate about the politicization of the NFL and other sports to the top of every broadcast, the front page of every newspaper, and a dominant position in all social media outlets.
Lost in that great national controversy has been the president’s support for Strange.
While it is increasingly perilous to predict electoral outcomes based on polls, even those released within 24 hours of the voting, (just ask Hillary Clinton, the New York Times, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, MSNBC, and the Washington Post), should Roy Moore emerge as the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Alabama after all the votes are counted, that outcome will likely send shock waves across the Republican establishment in Washington, and be particular cause for concern for four U.S. Senators who have opposed President Trump’s agenda, at varying levels, who are up for re-election in 2018 and are likely to draw conservative grassroots challengers.
Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), Senator Dean Heller (R-NV), and Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are three of those four targeted Republican establishment senators.
The fourth targeted senator is the one who generates most interest among readers of The Tennessee Star: Senator Bob Corker (R-TN).
The same grassroots forces who have rallied around Judge Roy Moore and against Luther Strange in Alabama will, on the morning after the Alabama election, focus all their efforts in Mississippi, Nevada, Arizona, and Tennessee to identify the conservative challenger with the best chance to defeat the next targeted establishment Republican senator, raise money for the challengers, and raise money for organizations that will oppose the incumbent.
In Tennessee one conservative challenger has already announced he will be a candidate to defeat Corker in the August 2018 Republican U.S. Senate primary: Andy Ogles, the former head of the Tennessee chapter of Americans for Prosperity.
Two other potential candidates are rumored to be considering entering the race: State Senator Mark Green (R-Clarksville) and former State Rep. Joe Carr (R-Lascassas).
The clock is ticking down, however, and time may be running out for these two potential challengers.
Should either or both decide to take the plunge into the race, conservative Republicans in Tennessee will be faced with the unenviable problem of splitting their own vote, opening a path to re-election for Senator Corker.
For now, though, only one candidate has officially announced for the Republican nomination to the U.S. Senate from Tennessee in 2018: Andy Ogles.