Democrats have seen this movie before: An illiberal demagogue with enough baggage to fill the cargo hold of an Airbus A380 wins a Republican primary, much to the chagrin of GOP pooh-bahs; suffers a world-historic sex (crimes) scandal weeks before Election Day; is loudly disowned by many in his party; plunges in the polls; and then, after Republican voters have a couple of weeks to rationalize/forget the allegations against their standard-bearer, starts creeping back into contention.
On November 16, a Change Research survey put Democrat Doug Jones ahead of Roy Moore 46 to 43 percent, in Alabama’s special Senate election. Twelve days later, that pollster now has Moore up 49 to 44 — with just 9 percent of Trump voters in Alabama saying that they believe that the Republican candidate actually preyed on teenage girls, despite dozens of accounts to the contrary (Moore, himself, has tacitly admitted to dating teenage girls when he was in his early 30s, and wrote in his memoir that he first took notice of his wife when, as a 29-year-old, he attended her junior-high dance recital).
Jones has led Moore in three of the last five polls taken of the race, and tied him in another. What’s more, Jones has been gaining ground in Emerson College’s survey, even as that pollster has consistently found Moore in the lead. Much of the discrepancy between different polls is a product of their turnout models — there isn’t a whole lot of precedent for a special election held on December 12, in a deep red state, at a time when an unpopular GOP president is in the Oval Office, and the Republican candidate is an alleged, serial sexual predator.
Nonetheless, the trend in Change Research’s polling should give Democrats an unpleasant sense of déjà vu. Still, liberals can take solace in one distinction between Donald Trump’s grab-’em-by-the-pussy saga and Roy Moore’s scandal: The GOP didn’t cut off funding to Trump’s campaign following the former.
Being an alleged molester of 14-year-old girls might not be enough to cost Moore a Senate election in Alabama — but being one whose campaign is dirt poor just might. Right now, Jones is outspending Moore roughly seven to one on television ads. As Politico reports:
The imbalance is stunning, with just two weeks to go in the campaign: Jones has aired more than 10,000 spots on broadcast TV in Alabama since the primaries, while Moore, the embattled GOP candidate, has run just over 1,000, according to figures compiled by Advertising Analytics…Fueled by millions of online dollars pouring in to defeat Moore, Jones’ campaign has flooded the airwaves with over $5.6 million of TV ads overall during in the general election campaign. Moore has answered with about $800,000 in ad spending[.]
Jones has used his considerable ad budget to inform moderate Republicans in Alabama that he’s a pragmatic problem-solver, willing to reach across the aisle to get things done — who just so happens to have never been accused of raping teenagers.
The Democrat also highlighted the fact that Ivanka Trump and Jeff Sessions said that they had no reason to doubt Moore’s accusers.
In his latest ad, Jones reminds voters that before Moore was accused of being a sex criminal, he was a far-right theocrat who’d already alienated a wide swath of GOP voters in Alabama.
“Roy Moore compares preschool and early childhood education to Nazi indoctrination,” Jones says in his new 30-second spot. “Folks, we’re 49th in education because of thinking like that.”
It’s conceivable that Roy Moore has actually benefited from the overwhelming focus on his sexual-assault allegations, as opposed to his policy ideas — the vast majority of which are deeply unpopular, even among Republican voters. Moore wants to abolish the progressive income tax, and replace it with a “flat tax” on “goods and services purchased.” In other words, the “populist” insurgent wants to pass an enormous tax cut on the rich, financed by radically increasing the cost of groceries, gas, and appliances for ordinary Americans.
He also wants to fully repeal Obamacare, slash federal health spending more generally, and entrust the health care of the poor and working class to “churches and charitable organizations.” Even on abortion, Moore is out of step with mainstream Republican opinion: The former judge has ruled that the moment a zygote is conceived, it enjoys full rights as a legal person. This doctrine prohibits abortion in all circumstances — even when the woman is the victim of rape or incest, or stands a high risk of dying in childbirth. It also likely requires banning in-vitro fertilization clinics and many forms of contraception. Republicans can’t win elections on white evangelical zealots alone, and virtually no one else supports fetal personhood — heck, even Mississippi voted it down in a referendum.
So, Jones has a lot of material and money to work with. Together, that might just be enough to prevent an Access Hollywood–tape redux.
On the other hand, while Moore may lack a competitive ad budget, he does have the nation’s most-watched cable network airing daily infomercials for his campaign — and the most-talked-about man in the world tacitly endorsing his candidacy.
Oh, and in the fall of 2016, Hillary Clinton was outspending Donald Trump on television ads … by a margin of seven to one.