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It’s crunch time for the Senate candidates — and they’re not holding back

By Chip Brownlee
Alabama Political Reporter

With the special election less than a week away, it’s crunch time for Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. Moore’s brought in former White House adviser Steve Bannon, and Jones isn’t holding back, either, running ads highlighting sexual assault allegations against Moore and hitting him hard in a speech in Birmingham Tuesday that his campaign labeled a major address.

“I believe women are every bit as capable as men, that they deserve to be elected to public office, and I damn sure believe and have done my part to ensure that men who hurt little girls should go to jail — not to the United States Senate,” Jones said Tuesday.

What was expected to be a boring election for a safe Republican seat in an overwhelmingly red state has morphed into one of the most unpredictable and surprisingly contested general elections in Alabama’s recent history.

Moore, while not exactly a poster child for the Republican mainstream, was expected to be a shoe-in for the Senate seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions — but a month ago, allegations of sexual impropriety, including an allegation that a 32-year-old Moore initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl in 1979, have rocked his campaign.

He and his campaign have pushed back against the allegation by trying to discredit the three women who have accused him of sexual assault. And his plan seems to be working. While Jones held leads in several polls following the publication of the first bombshell report in The Washington Post, Moore now appears to have regained some momentum.

A CBS News Poll released Monday gave Moore a 6-point advantage, and a JMC Analytics Poll, which last month gave Jones a lead, now shows Moore with a 5-point edge. Two other recent polls, one from The Washington Post and one from Gravis Research, show Jones within the margin of error or with a slight lead.

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As the election nears, Moore appears to be consolidating the support of the Republican Party, even after several of its national leaders distanced themselves from his campaign last month. The Republican National Committee this week began offering financial support to his campaign again just weeks after they had severed fundraising ties in the aftermath of the allegations.

Though the RNC’s support appears to be tepid, President Donald Trump’s doesn’t. He’s been firing off tweets in support of Moore in recent days and on Monday called Moore to offer him his full endorsement, appearing to fully align himself wholeheartedly with the former Alabama chief justice. Trump plans to hold a campaign-style rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday, just days ahead of the election, while his former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, held a rally with Moore Tuesday.

Bannon and Moore went to war with the Republican establishment in Washington, whom they have blamed for the sexual assault allegations. Bannon, now-chairman of Breitbart News, on his second trip to Alabama in support of Moore, joined Moore in denouncing fake news and “all the lies from The Washington Post,” according to Politico.

Moore has been hitting Jones hard on his abortion stance. Jones, who has said women should have the freedom to “choose what happens to her own body,” has said he doesn’t support changing current state law on abortion, which prohibits abortion after 20 weeks post-fertilization.

Moore said he is fighting a “spiritual battle” and that Jones can’t represent the state on social issues like abortion, transgender and gay rights, and gun rights.

“I think they’re afraid I’m going to take Alabama values to Washington,” Moore said. “I want to tell you, I can’t wait.”

Jones, though still the underdog, has a massive lead in fundraising, according to several reports, and has outpaced Moore at almost every step of the campaign, from public events to television campaign ads.

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During his speech Monday, Jones positioned himself as the sane candidate who will be good for Alabama’s image and its business climate, pointing to Alabama’s involvement in a competition to get a $1.6 billion Toyota Mazda manufacturing facility that could bring more than 4,000 jobs.

“But a serious question that you have to ask yourself is this: does the idea of Senator Roy Moore, make it more or less likely that Toyota or anyone else would see Alabama’s image in such a negative way that they would cross Alabama off their list and move on to another state,” Jones said.

Repeating a common refrain from his campaign, Jones said Moore about be “bad for business in Alabama, bad for the economy, and bad for our country.” Moore’s tenure in Alabama politics, Jones said, has “never been a source of pride for the people of this state, only a source of embarrassment.”

“Roy Moore has spent his life using whatever position he was in to create conflict and division in order to promote his personal agenda,” Jones said. “He was kicked off the bench twice for violating his solemn oath of office by completely disregarding the Rule of Law and in the process has demeaned so many of the citizens of this state.”

Jones also pushed back against Moore’s criticisms of his gun rights stances and Trump’s accusations that he would be “bad on crime” and “bad for our Second Amendment.”

“Despite the silly name calling my record as a prosecutor speaks for itself and I am a supporter of the Second Amendment,” Jone said. “When you see me with a gun, I will be climbing into a deer stand or a turkey blind, not prancing around on a stage in cowboy outfit.”

Jones and Moore will face off in the special election set for next Tuesday, Dec. 12.

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Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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