By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
A new poll of the US Senate special primary election set for next week shows former Chief Justice Roy Moore consistently leading the rest of the primary pack, trailed by incumbent Sen. Luther Strange and US Rep. Mo Brooks.
In a hypothetical runoff between Strange and Moore, the poll suggests Moore would lead there as well.
The poll, conducted by Montgomery polling firm Cygnal and released Thursday, showed Moore ahead of Strange with a more than 8-percentage point lead. Moore has polled consistently above 30 percent in recent public polls, including this new poll at 30.7 percent. Strange trails with 22.6 percent and Brooks has 18.1 percent — barely outside the poll’s margin of error of 4.37 percentage points.
“We’re not at all shocked by these results. I expect Moore and Strange in the runoff election, but Strange hasn’t locked down the second spot yet,” said Cygnal president Brent Buchanan. “It will be interesting to see if President Trump’s endorsement of Senator Strange increases voter turnout, which should favor Strange according to our survey results.”
The new Cygnal poll, which interviewed 502 Republican voters between Aug. 8 and 9, is the first to be conducted during the same period when Trump endorsed Strange on Aug. 8. The endorsement came in a tweet that night when the president said Strange had “done a great job representing the people of the Great State of Alabama.”
Moore — who was effectively removed as chief justice after defying the US Supreme Court on same-sex message — has healthy favorability in almost all sectors surveyed in the poll at about 56 percent. In the Birmingham media market, which constitutes more than 40 percent of the state’s Republican voters, Moore maintains a 64 percent favorability rating.
Brooks and Strange have more trouble. Strange has a favorability rating of 46 percent compared to an unfavorable rating of about 42 percent while Brooks’ has a net-negative favorability rating. More than 45 percent of surveyed voters found Brooks unfavorable compared to only 39 percent who said they had a favorable opinion of the US representative.
While Moore has largely stayed above the fray, Strange and Brooks have seemed to battle for a second-place finish, which would place them in the all-but-inevitable runoff against Moore. The Senate Leadership Fund, a PAC with close ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has spent heavily on negative ads focused mostly on Brooks.
But the tight results of this poll indicate that Brooks and Strange are still in competition for the second-place runoff position.
“We have a real race on our hands here,” added Chris Kratzer, vice president of polling and communication at Cygnal. “I fully expect it to be neck-and-neck until the end for second place unless President Trump himself shows up to support Senator Strange.”
Strange’s support remains weak among younger voters and voters in the Huntsville media market — the two areas where Brooks’ support is strong. In Huntsville, Brooks enjoys a 58 percent favorability rating. But according to the poll, supporters of both Strange and Moore and voters of 55 — those most likely to vote — have an overwhelmingly unfavorable view of Brooks.
“Congressman Mo Brooks’ upside-down favorables are going to be the main factor if he does not make the runoff. If nothing else, this proves that negative advertising works,” Cygnal said in a press release.
Between the three leading candidates, Moore is the only one who has had consistent favorability and support so far, according to the poll. Both Strange and Brooks have fluctuated in the third-place spot.
If Strange and Moore make it into a runoff, those surveyed said they would support Moore over Strange by 11 percentage points.
With only four days to go to the election, polls suggest this may be one of the lowest turnout elections in several cycles with less than 350,000 voters expected. The low turnout could help Moore and hurt Strange, who has higher support among those who say they are less likely to vote.