By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones has gained an eight-point lead over Republican Roy Moore in the race to replace Jeff Sessions as Alabama’s next Senator, according to a new poll — amid mounting calls for Moore to withdraw after numerous sexual misconduct allegations surfaced in the last week.
A majority of likely Alabama voters says Moore shouldn’t drop out, though, despite calls from Republicans leaders in Washington for him to give up the fight.
The Fox News Poll released Thursday shows Jones with 50 percent support among 649 likely Alabama voters. Moore trails with 42 percent support in the poll, which has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
The same poll in October found Moore and Jones tied, both registering 42 percent support — an 8-point swing in Jones’ favor. The Real Clear Politics average of polls still gives Moore a 0.8 percentage point lead. Two other polls conducted since allegations surfaced found Moore with a lead of 6 points or 10 points.
Jones, a former U.S. Attorney who prosecuted two former Klansmen for the 1963 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, has stayed mostly out of the spotlight since the sexual misconduct allegations arose last week in the Washington Post that Moore had initiated contact with a 14-year-old girl in 1979.
The woman, Leigh Corfman, said Moore approached her outside of an Etowah County courtroom where he was working as an assistant district attorney. He later asked her on dates and took her back to his house twice. The first trip ended in a kiss and the second ended in Moore trying to get her to touch him over his underwear, according to her account.
Since then, another woman, Beverly Young Nelson, alleged Moore sexually assaulted her in 1977 outside of a restaurant where she worked in Gadsden. She says he offered her a ride home from the restaurant, where he was a frequent diner, but instead of taking her home he drove to the back of the restaurant and assaulted her in his car.
At least four other women have said Moore pursued them — asking them on dates persistently, even at their high schools — when they were between the ages of 16 and 18. Another, Tina Johnson, told AL.com that Moore grabbed her buttocks in 1991.
Alabamians are split on whether to believe the allegations against Moore, the poll showed. Thirty-eight percent of those likely to vote in the election on Dec. 12 say they believe the allegations while 37 percent say they don’t. A fifth said they don’t know whether to believe the misconduct allegations.
The Fox News Poll was conducted Nov. 13–15 using live interviewers via both cell phones and landlines with a random sample of 823 Alabama registered voters and a subsample of 649 likely voters. Anderson Robbins Research, a Democratic firm, and Shaw & Company Research, a Republican firm, directed the poll.
Among those calling on Moore to withdraw from the race is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom voters gave a 27 percent job approval rating. McConnell has said he believes the women accusers. A PAC aligned with the powerful Senate leader has withdrawn support for Moore, along with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee, which severed fundraising ties with Moore.
Fifty-four percent of likely voters surveyed in the poll said Moore should say in the Senate race while 38 percent said he should drop out.
President Donald Trump, who has said he finds the allegations “extremely disturbing,” has a 52 percent job approval rating among Alabama likely voters. The poll showed a majority of Alabama voters have a favorable view of Jones, former President Barack Obama and Jeff Sessions.
Moore, Trump and Sen. Luther Strange, whom Moore defeated in an August runoff, all registered favorability ratings of less than 50 percent among likely voters. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s approval rating wasn’t polled.
If Strange ran as a write-in candidate in December, the poll says 33 percent of Moore supporters would abandon him for Strange. Sixteen percent of those who say they would vote for Jones said they would write in Strange.