INSIDE THE STATEHOUSE
by Steve Flowers
The race for our open U.S. Senate seat is evolving. Folks, we are in a brief 33-day sprint to the primary on August 15. The winner of the Republican Primary will be our next junior U.S. Senator. The December 12 General Election will be a coronation for the Republican. The eight Democratic candidates are irrelevant as are at least six of the Republican qualifiers.
It is doubtful that either candidate can win the August GOP Primary without a runoff. Therefore, the two left standing will square off on September 26, after six more weeks of grueling and negative campaigning.
All early indications pointed to a two-man race between Roy Moore and Luther Strange. However, both of these high profile veterans of state politics have high negatives. These high negatives surrounding Moore and Strange point to the high possibility of a third person winning this race.
The possible outside horse has emerged. Tennessee Valley Congressman, Mo Brooks, is gaining momentum. He could be the surprise in the race. Brooks garnered an amazing amount of free publicity by being one of the Republican Congressmen targeted and shot at in the June shooting of Republican congressional baseball players.
You cannot get any better introduction to Alabama voters than being given prime time news coverage as an Alabama Congressman who is so conservative that a left wing wacko, Bernie Sanders socialist gunman fires upon you while you are riding your bicycle to practice baseball for the Republican team.
It is now a three-man horserace heading into the homestretch. Every poll has Moore leading Strange and Brooks fighting for the runoff spot with the Ten Commandments Judge.
Polling indicates that the majority of GOP Primary voters in our state do not want to vote for either Roy Moore or Luther Strange. Both have a large reservoir of detractors. Middle of the road, urbane Republicans are turned off and embarrassed by Roy Moore. They look upon him as a demagoguing, backwoods, Primitive Baptist, religious nut. They cringe at how he might embarrass the state if he got to Washington. The Beltway Republican establishment fears Moore’s independence and religious zealot antics and demonstrations. That is why you will see millions of Washington Super PAC money flow into the Heart of Dixie to elect Luther Strange.
Luther’s negatives stem from the way he garnered the interim senate seat vacancy. The perception is that he is currently in Washington because of a brazen, audacious, corrupt deal between him and disgraced former governor, Robert Bentley. It looks to the average voter that Luther Strange and Robert Bentley were in collusion in a backroom deal where Bentley, in his waning hours as governor, gave Luther Strange the appointment in exchange for Luther, as Attorney General, not moving with prosecuting Bentley and his advisor.
Millions of Washington money may be able to wash away the Bentley taint. That is what Luther is banking on happening. You are seeing the avalanche of TV and media buys for Big Luther. His Washington handlers are scripting him to perfection. They are keeping him hidden out of sight. They are avoiding all media and debates. They will slip him into an event and get a photo of him there then quickly whisk him away. They will not allow him to be interviewed by any Alabama media. They do not want him to be asked about the appointment. He was pretty good about avoiding the media during his six years as Attorney General. Therefore, his following the instructions of the Potomac pros is an easy script to follow.
Two secondary officeholders could have probably bested Strange out of the runoff. John Merrill or Twinkle Cavanaugh would have been tough for Luther.
The two best candidates from the Congressional delegation would have been Congressmen Bradley Byrne or Robert Aderholt. Either of these two thoroughbreds would have made the runoff with Moore.
The Roy Moore versus Luther Strange battle illuminates a natural divide in the Republican Party. It is almost like two separate tribes.
It pits the evangelical, Donald Trump, George Wallace Republicans against the mainstream pro-business establishment Republicans.
As one North Alabamian told me, “We will see if Moses with his Ten Commandments comes down off Sand Mountain with the Hebrew children and slays the seven foot Philistine Mountain Brook giant.”
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.