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Opinion | Despite having all the power, Republicans have set themselves up for failure

With their selection of no-issue candidates who hold little experience and zero aptitude for addressing real issues, Alabama Republicans will have only themselves to blame.

Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

Alabama Republicans on Tuesday selected as their nominee to the U.S. Senate a man who during more than a year of campaigning — much of it coming during a global pandemic, national recession and unprecedented civil unrest — never once discussed in depth his plans for doing much of anything about any of the numerous issues facing this state and country. 

And they also elected a former Mike Hubbard lackey who came within an eyelash of going to prison on ethics charges. 

It was … about what you’d expect for the Alabama GOP. 

Although, the margins were a surprise. 

In the night’s main event, Tommy Tuberville, the former football coach and guy who you really shouldn’t trust your money with, ran up the score on Jeff Sessions. With a handful of boxes still out late Tuesday, Tuberville was up by 22 points and Sessions had admitted defeat, continuing what has been a particularly rough few weeks for Confederate monuments in Alabama. 

But don’t fret if you’re concerned that Alabama is losing its sense of history. 

Because nothing screams Alabama history quite like two (alleged) crooks fighting for a U.S. House seat. 

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In the 2nd Congressional district, Barry Moore, the former legislator who a jury in 2014 found not-guilty of perjury charges despite an audio recording seeming to confirm the crimes, defeated by 20 points Jeff Coleman, who spent nearly $2 million trying to buy the seat. 

Coleman wasn’t exactly a Bible salesman himself, though. As APR reported, his moving company was at the center of a major fraud scandal, in which it paid $5 million to settle charges of fixing weights and over billing the U.S. military and service members. 

You’re welcome, the rest of America. 

In the end, though, these races weren’t really about ethics or competency or something silly like choosing the most qualified candidate. They were about loving Donald Trump the most. 

That was Tuberville’s entire campaign. There’s literally nothing else that he even attempted to run on. 

No matter the question. No matter the issue. He always returned back to loving Trump and praising Trump as the country’s best president in his lifetime. 

In the meantime, Trump helped Tuberville by repeatedly criticizing Sessions, his own former attorney general, and encouraging people to vote for Tuberville. 

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And while a clear majority favored Trump’s pick, a much larger majority — some 90 percent of registered Republican voters in the state — favored sitting at home instead. While some of the disinterest can certainly be chalked up to COVID-19 fears, that total is less than half the turnout that was expected, even factoring in the virus. 

That’s a bad omen for Trump nationally, if in even the state that loves him most he can generate only enough excitement to edge into double-digit turnout. 

But those voters who did show up were the defiant types. 

Neither Tuberville nor Moore would be considered establishment candidates, and neither had the backing of the national Republican Party. Both played up the “outsider” role, and both coveted the rural, blue collar voters. 

There were questions, particularly with Tuberville, as to whether such a shallow campaign could endure a long campaign. Not only did it endure, it gained steam. 

The question for both now, though, is if the Trump-love strategy can be successful in a general election — even one in deeply red Alabama — against opponents who will push issues and talk about plans. And as the coronavirus worsens, the economy continues to falter and social justice continues to be a hot topic — all of which worsen the president’s approval numbers — can the door open enough for either Sen. Doug Jones or Moore’s opponent, Phyllis Harvey-Hall to slip through? 

If so, with their selection of no-issue candidates who hold little experience and zero aptitude for addressing real issues, Alabama Republicans will have only themselves to blame.

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Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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