By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
After President Donald J. Trump’s speech in Huntsville Friday night, it is tempting to feel sorry for the state’s appointed junior U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, but as it turns out, it was a fleeting bit of nausea.
If Strange wins, he can thank President Trump. If he loses, he has himself to blame.
Four lines in the president’s nearly 90-minute talk should leave Strange and his supporters wondering why they even held the rally.
During the event, President Trump said the following:
“And I might have made a mistake. And I’ll be honest; I might have made a mistake.”
“And I told Luther, I have to say this, if his opponent wins, I’m going to be here campaigning like hell for him.”
“I don’t know him. I met him once.”
“I’m taking a big risk because if Luther does not make it, they are going to go after me.”
Like most presidents, Trump is loath to admit false steps, but twice he said endorsing Strange may have been an error.
During the debate, the night before Trump spoke in Huntsville, Strange hammered home the notion that he and the president were close friends and that Trump picked him over his opponent, Judge Roy Moore. Strange’s entire debate on Thursday consisted of Donald Trump likes me best, but President Trump undercut Strange’s best argument by saying, “I don’t know him. I met him once.”
Big Luther’s finishing argument for election boils down to this, “If you love the president you’re gonna like me,” or perhaps more simply put, “Big daddy likes me better than you Roy Moore.” *add raspberry sound effect*
Forget the fact that Trump thought he was responsible for Strange’s nickname “Big Luther,” which is a campaign moniker Strange has used since his failed run for Lt. Gov. in 2006, or that the president said, “The last thing I want to do is be involved in a primary, OK? I could be sitting home right now getting to watch some of the games tomorrow.” The real zinger of the night was, “And I told Luther, I have to say this, if his opponent wins, I’m going to be here campaigning like hell for him.”
Strange and Moore are very different men. One is a well-heeled politico with deep ties to Washington and Alabama’s power elites. The other an up-by-the-bootstraps fighter who rails against the D.C. and Montgomery sophisticates who consider him an embarrassment.
Moore spent 40 years kicking against the picks. Strange’s career as a lobbyist and politician is devoted to getting the best deal for those who own the oxcart Moore refuses to pull.
Strange’s political career saw success as a cog in the wheel of then Gov. Bob Riley’s 2010 victory plan. Riley’s goal was to retain power after he left the governor’s mansion through surrogates. Riley’s 2010 scheme would make Bradley Byrne governor, Mike Hubbard speaker, Del Marsh as Senate president pro tem and Luther Strange as attorney general. But AEA Secretary Paul Hubbert thwarted Riley’s efforts by supporting Robert Bentley, and as they say, the rest is history.
Alabama conservatives are crazy about Trump, seeing him as a man of the people. The president even he seems to find this a little amazing.
“Isn’t it a little weird when a guy who lives on 5th Avenue in the most beautiful apartment you’ve ever seen comes to Alabama and Alabama loves that guy?” Trump said during his Huntsville speech.
Strange said at Thursday’s debate that he and Trump shared the same background, and to a degree that is true, but not the way Strange hoped it would be interpreted.
Some call the president a racist, but maybe he’s a classist who lives in the most beautiful apartment you will never see or live in. Strange is a classist, and like Trump, he was also to the manner born. But that’s about where the two men diverge as Strange, at his core, is a country club Republican.
Some have compared Moore and Trump favorably in that both men are outsiders who want to drain the swamp that is Washington politics. Both men appear to be populist and neither of them mind spitting in the eye of establishment elites. Other than that example, there is a stark contrast and a broad valley that divides the two.
Trump’s victory hinged upon his promise to Make America Great Again. Moore wants to make our nation great again, but he says it must first be good again, and by that he means traditional values rooted in scripture and the constitution. Like him or not, Moore’s beliefs align with the majority of Alabama’s Republican primary voters. The same voters who love Trump trust Moore, and perhaps they love him more deeply. But don’t tell the president that because like others before him, he wants to be the bride at every the wedding, the baby at every christening and the corpse at every funeral.
Trump worries the blame will fall on him if Strange loses. Don’t worry, Mr. President, that won’t happen.
As a Moore supporter said, “If Big Luther wins he can thank Trump if he loses we can thank God.”