It’s not easy to feel sorry for Luther Strange, the former D.C. lobbyist who got himself appointed to the U.S. Senate under questionable circumstances and then benefited from massive financial support from Mitch McConnell and a surprise endorsement from Donald Trump.
Big Luther, however, is trailing in all of the polls in his runoff contest with Judge Roy Moore. Time is running out (the runoff election is on September 26) for the Trump appearance in Alabama Team Strange had been hoping for. Trump’s ideological companion Stephen Bannon and his Breitbart News are thumping the tubs for Judge Roy, as are Trump ally Mark Meadows (the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus) and Mike Huckabee, father of White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
One would think that with all his money Strange would attack Moore for being a theocratic scofflaw who has been removed from his Supreme Court office once and suspended once as well. He is an embarrassment to his state and his party. He would not be in the position of being close to a Senate seat much anywhere else.
But no: Luther Strange is running to Roy Moore’s right, and isn’t even mentioning his opponent’s loony toons positions on church-state separation or his defiance of federal courts. One attack ad on Moore tries to make him out as a “swamp creature” who has been in public office for too long, rather aggressively ignoring the fact that the judge keeps squandering his jobs by attacking the U.S. and Alabama constitutions. More recently, the Strange campaign attacked Moore for failing in a July radio interview with Dale Jackson to identify the meaning of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals executive order that Trump is partially rescinding.
Strange’s campaign on Friday put out a video that featured audio of the exchange with Jackson under the title “Roy Moore is clueless on immigration.”
“Career Politician Roy Moore’s failure to know anything about the DACA program that was President Obama’s key method to halting deportations of illegal immigrants is beyond embarrassing,” the campaign said in a statement.
Perhaps this is a subliminal reference to the deep-down realization of Alabama Republicans that Moore would be a laughingstock in the Senate. But Moore batted it back as an effort to entangle him with “Washington language,” and it’s pretty clear voters are more likely to identify with Moore’s ignorance of federal-program acronyms than with his opponents’ mockery of the grim old fanatic.
Perhaps, down the stretch, Strange will become desperate enough to call on runoff voters to get a grip and avoid sending the “Ayatollah of Alabama” to the Senate, or perhaps even to an improbable defeat at the hands of Democrat Doug Jones in the December general election. For now, Strange is like the Republicans who tried to stop David Duke’s Louisiana gubernatorial candidacy in 1991 by calling the former KKK leader inexperienced. There’s a line of attack on Roy Moore that’s obvious. But Big Luther’s afraid to use it. If he loses to Moore, he richly deserves it.