It has been a month since our mid-July GOP runoffs for the U.S. Senate and two open Congressional seats. Since then, numerous publications, as well as many of you, have asked me to analyze and assess the outcomes.
The outcome of the Senate runoff between Tommy Tuberville and Jeff Sessions can be explained in one word, “Trump.” It is that simple. Tuberville read the playbook perfectly and stayed on script. Alabama is Trump Country. President Trump may very well replicate or exceed his 63 % 2016 landslide vote in the Heart of Dixie come fall. All Tuberville needs to do is keep doing the same thing. Simply say, “I’m Trump’s man, and I will have his back.”
Tuberville’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, has a lot of left-wing money from California that will help our Alabama TV and radio stations and hopefully, newspapers, make a lot of money, but it will be for naught. It might allow Jones to get over the traditional 40 % threshold for a Democrat in Alabama, but it is tough for a Democrat to win in Alabama, especially in a presidential election year.
With all that money, Jones will try to tell Alabamians that he is not a liberal, yellow-dog Democrat, but he is. They will also attack Tuberville unmercifully, personally. Tuberville should not take the bait. He needs to keep his head down and diffuse the assaults and march on simply saying, “I’m Trump’s man.” Under no circumstances should he debate. It only gives Jones credibility.
All Tuberville has to say is that Jones has voted straight down the line with his liberal Democratic friends and colleagues on every major issue, especially, that he joined his Democratic bedfellows Nancy Pelosi and the California Democrats in the vote to impeach Donald Trump and against Trump’s conservative Supreme Court appointments. Jones and his California team will try to make the race about personalities, Jones versus Tuberville.
However, at the end of the day, Tuberville really does not even have to campaign. On Nov. 3 it will be a choice between Donald Trump and Tommy Tuberville with a big “R” on top of their names or Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi and Doug Jones with a big “D” on top of their names. Folks, there is no doubt who will win that fight in the Heart of Dixie.
The story in the Congressional races was about the Club for Growth. This is an ultra-right-wing group of rich men who have decided they wanted to spend a lot of money in Republican primaries around the country. For some reason, Alabama’s two open congressional seats in the first and second districts attracted these Club for Growth Daddy Warbucks. They wanted to boast that they captured a seat. They bought them one in the second district, but they lost in their attempt to buy the first district.
The winner of the first district race, the Mobile-Baldwin seat, was won by Jerry Carl. He is a normal pro-business Republican. The right-wing Club for Growth spent over one million dollars trying to elect Carl’s opponent, Bill Hightower. Carl must be one tough, well-thought-of Mobilian to overcome that onslaught of money.
The Club for Growth in the second district orchestrated the most amazing comeback upset I have ever seen. Dothan businessman Jeff Coleman spent more than $2 million of his own money and raised another $2 million from main street conservative groups like Chambers of Commerce and Farmers. This financial advantage propelled Coleman to what looked like a prohibitive lead in the first primary on March 3.
It looked like a cakewalk for Coleman. His opponent was a relatively unknown former state representative named Barry Moore, who barely made it into the runoff. Undoubtedly, the Club for Growth polled the district and saw they could beat Coleman – the mainstream, pro-business Republican. They blindsided him with a million dollars of negative ads and brochures the last three weeks of the campaign.
A million dollars in three weeks in the very inexpensive Montgomery-Dothan media market is insurmountable. Their ads were well designed, vicious, and yes, disingenuous, and they worked. The Club for Growth bought themselves a congressional seat. However, they will get very little bang for their buck. Moore will be in Congress two years, then gone. Alabama is probably going to lose a seat to California after this year’s census. We will go from seven seats to six in 2022. This district likely is the one that will be on the chopping block. If indeed our second congressional district moves to California, maybe Doug Jones can run for it. His voting record will sell on the left coast.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in more than 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Flowers may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.