U.S. Senator Doug Jones, Democrat of Alabama, has a tough road to reelection in 2020. He’s be running on the same ticket as a Democratic presidential candidate who is almost sure to be trounced in his state, and he’s cast enough votes in the Senate with other Democrats that he won’t be able to avoid the partisan stain.
His odds may have just gone up, though, with this news:
Roy Moore may be back on a ballot soon.
Moore, the 2017 Republican U.S. Senate nominee whose campaign crashed after allegations of sexual misconduct, said Friday he is “seriously considering” another run for office.
The self-same Senate seat, as it happens. Now there’s nothing surprising about Moore running for office. He’s run three times for local offices (winning once), twice for governor (losing primaries both times) and twice for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court (winning both times), in addition to his failed special Senate race in 2017. Moore also publicly flirted with presidential campaigns in 2004 and 2012 after he gained national notoriety for installing a huge monument to the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. He has not let one removal and one suspension from the chief justice position slow him down. Nor has the chronically theocratic pol backed off from his categorical denial of the allegations of sexual harassment, abuse, and creepiness that damaged him in 2017.
This time, moreover, Moore has a cause other than his usual right-wing agenda and his war on separation of church and state: he believes he was robbed by forces supporting Jones. And it’s not entirely a figment of his imagination, as Paul Gattis explains:
Moore has been critical of two disinformation campaigns waged by Democrats against Moore during the Senate race, going so far as to first say the seat was stolen in another interview on [Bryan] Fischer’s radio show in January.
The alleged thief was a shadowy pro-Jones (or at least anti-Moore) operation called Operation Birmingham, which was exposed in a series of recent articles in the New York Times and Washington Post. The Post’s Craig Timberg explained the basics to NPR in January:
This was a disinformation campaign that really resembled some of the tactics that were used by the Russians in 2016 involving fake Facebook messages. Twitter was used as well. And the idea was to undermine the support for Roy Moore and to bolster the support for Doug Jones using social media in a way that was, frankly, quite deceptive ….
[T]he definitive account of this, at least as far as we’ve been able to turn up, is a document that was handed out at a secret meeting here in Washington back in September. And what they were trying to do is figure out, you know, what would make people vote either for Jones or against Roy Moore? For example, arguably the most controversial tactic that’s in the document speaks about creating fake evidence — what they call a false flag — that Russian bots were supporting Roy Moore.
So they put out some sort of hints about this on Twitter. There are some tweets out there that have Cyrillic characters — the Russian language — suggesting that they were Russian, and then it was spread around. It actually generated some headlines at the time. A couple of news organizations bit on this and reported that Roy Moore was being supported by Russian bots.
There’s no evidence at all linking “Project Birmingham” to Jones, and no way to know whether it had any effect whatsoever on the outcome. But Moore is certain he wuz robbed, and so he could go into 2020 with a fresh grievance in addition to the usual stuff about Christians being persecuted by secular socialists.
The only Republican candidate already in the 2020 race, Represenative Bradley Byrne, is the sort of Establishment Republican Moore has always battled. He could be cast as this year’s Luther Strange, the appointed senator Moore beat in 2017 despite Trump’s support for the incumbent. Byrne doesn’t have the close association with a disgraced former governor (Robert Bentley) like Strange did, but he’s hardly a slam dunk against the wily and universally known Moore. Some Republicans believe a different and more militantly right-wing congressman, Mo Brooks (who finished third in the 2017 primary behind Moore and Strange), might be a better bet to turn back Moore, but it’s unclear he will run.
All in all, it’s looking better for Jones, who can raise money and wait and see whether Republicans can avoid another fractious primary, perhaps one that again gives him Roy Moore as an opponent.