Moore Trouble For Republicans

[ Posted Thursday, November 9th, 2017 – 17:56 UTC ]

Before Tuesday's election returns started coming in, I was cautious and wary of getting my expectations up too high. Yesterday, after the scope of the Democratic sweep had sunk in, I was in a much more optimistic mood. Today, with the Washington Post bombshell story on Roy Moore's disgraceful past, it seems like the time for some good old-fashioned wild-eyed speculation. Such has been the rollercoaster of the week for Democrats and progressives everywhere.

Roy Moore now stands accused of sexually molesting a 14-year-old girl, back when he was in his early 30s. Three other women from the same time period also accused him of dating them and kissing them when they were underage teenagers. This is all a continuation of the fallout from the Harvey Weinstein revelations, which has led to a flood of accusations against men in many other sectors of society, including politicians. Victims are increasingly willing to tell their stories, and the public is not nearly as forgiving of such transgressions as they used to be. Moore is merely the most recent in a long list of predators who have been outed since the Weinstein story broke.

If Moore's accusers are telling the truth, then he had a predilection for very young teen girls when he was in his 30s. That's more than a little disturbing. People are already speculating about how many other young girls may have been targeted by Moore, and what other salacious details may be revealed next. But even if nothing else comes to light, the image of a thirtysomething adult engaged in heavy petting (or what the law would call sexual molestation, if not statutory rape) with a 14-year-old is already out there. And in today's unforgiving atmosphere, that's a pretty damning thing to be defined by.

This bombshell of a story broke a little more than one month ahead of the special election in Alabama to replace Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate. Republican Luther Strange was named his successor on a temporary basis, but he lost the special election's primary to Moore. Strange will continue to serve until the special election is held, though. And then whoever wins next month's special election will fill the seat initially vacated by Sessions until after the 2020 election cycle (completing Sessions's term, in other words).

Up until the story broke, Democrats had been wistfully dreaming of picking up this seat. Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, is doing much better than expected in the polls, only running a scant six points behind Moore. That is extraordinary in a state that is one of the deepest-red states in the Union. Moore has a rather toxic past politically, having been forcefully removed -- twice -- from his seat as chief justice of Alabama's supreme court (once for his Ten Commandments display, and once for ignoring the U.S. Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling). Tellingly, though, he had to be removed twice because Alabama voters returned him to his seat after the first time he was chucked out of office. What would have been the end of a political career elsewhere didn't stop Moore from winning an election to the same seat he had held. But it's impossible to deny that Moore has already been having a tougher time in the upcoming special election than any other Republican candidate would have had in Alabama. Republicans normally win in landslides here, not by margins in the single digits, in other words.

Now, however, dreams of picking up this seat don't seem so far-fetched for Democrats. If Moore refuses to step down as a candidate, Jones might just have a shot at defeating him. Because of the closeness of the election, Moore's name will appear on the ballot even if he withdraws (or the Republican Party forcibly removes him as a candidate). Any other Republican would have to wage a write-in campaign, which is notoriously difficult (but not completely impossible) to pull off.

Moore, so far, has been defiant. He denies everything and accused the Washington Post and the "Democrat Party" [sic] of launching a desperate smear campaign against him. Most Republicans in Washington have only called on Moore to exit the race "if the allegations are true." Since Moore is asserting that they are not true, it doesn't look like he'll be voluntarily quitting the race. However, few congressional Republicans had been excited about the prospect of seeing Roy Moore in the Senate in the first place, so it's doubtful many of them will come to his defense now.

Moore could conceivably weather this storm, of course. Evangelical voters these days don't seem to much care about the personal morality of their chosen candidates, as long as they are sufficiently conservative in their political views. Donald Trump never could have been elected (or even won the Republican nomination) if that were not now true. Any sin can be forgiven if you'll be a reliable vote for their cause, it now seems. So Moore could still ultimately prevail in December.

But Moore's slim margin in the polls means that he's got less of a buffer to fall back on. If he had been a generic Republican candidate, he probably would have been ahead by 20 points or more by now. Because he's only up by six, he's in a lot more danger of losing. If only a small share of Moore's supporters decide to stay home on Election Day out of sheer disgust, Jones could actually pull off an upset. With today's revelations, this is a lot more possible an outcome, that's for certain.

What would a Democratic pickup in Alabama mean? Well, for one thing, it would generate petrifying amounts of fear among all Republicans in Congress. "If Democrats can win a race in Alabama, they may be able to win anywhere next year -- even in my state," is what they'll be thinking to themselves. Instead of fearing a Democratic wave election, Republicans may panic at the thought of a Democratic tsunami election.

In more practical terms, it would mean the Republican majority in the Senate would shrink from 52-48 down to 51-49. This would also shrink the number of Republicans who could kill a GOP bill by voting against it down from three senators to only two. That could be immediately significant, since whoever wins the special election will be seated before the year is out. If Republicans haven't passed their tax bill by then, it'll get one vote harder to accomplish that (and any other legislation).

Realistically, even if Democrats do pick up this Senate seat, they likely won't hold it for more than one term. Alabama is not Virginia or North Carolina or even Georgia -- it shows no signs of becoming a purple state any time soon, to put it a different way. So the likely outcome would be for Jones to hold the seat until the 2020 elections, and then lose it to a less-flamboyant Republican candidate. Jones would follow the same trajectory Scott Brown did in Massachusetts: briefly holding a seat that by all rights really belonged to the other party, then losing his bid for re-election.

Still, that would mean more than three years of having a Democrat representing Alabama in the Senate. It would shrink the already razor-thin margin of Republican control in the chamber, and it would mean all Democrats would have to do to derail bills would be to convince two Republicans to cross the aisle.

If a Democratic wave election does take place in next year's midterms, there is a very real possibility that they could win a majority in the House, and replace Paul Ryan with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. But even in a big year for Democrats, winning back the Senate is probably out of reach. This is a consequence of the six-year Senate election cycle, since everyone who is up for re-election in 2018 was elected in 2012 -- which was a pretty good year for Democrats. This means Democrats will be defending a huge number of seats, while Republicans are only defending a handful. That playing field is much more conducive to Republicans winning some pickups than Democrats, in other words. But if the wave is enormous enough, Democrats might just be able to gain a seat or two in the Senate. And if Roy Moore is defeated next month due to today's bombshell, it'll be one seat easier for Democrats to regain control.

As mentioned, this is wildly optimistic to even be contemplating. Donald Trump, after all, won lots of evangelical votes, so Roy Moore could conceivably manage to convince evangelicals that everyone but him is lying. It is indeed groundshaking to even consider the possibility of a senator from Alabama with a "D" after his name, much less the probability of retaking the Senate next year. But then, that's the kind of week it has been, so far.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


23 Comments on “Moore Trouble For Republicans”

  1. [1] 
    John M from Ct. wrote:

    Yeah, OK, but I'm reminded of another recent GOP candidate who was certifiably loathsome, with completely believable charges of extreme moral turpitude, but who got all the votes he needed anyway. It seems, when the dust settled, that his party's voting base simply could not stomach the idea that the other, clearly demonic, party and candidate might win if they abstained.

  2. [2] 
    neilm wrote:

    Counting on evangelicals to do what Jesus would is a losing bet at the moment.

  3. [3] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Both of my parents came from L.A. — Lower Alabama — and I still have tons of family members that reside there. The one question that I have heard from them about this is why these women waited until now to finally speak out against Moore? If it is because they finally feel that their accusations might be taken seriously with all of the powerful men being called out for their past crimes — which would be a totally legitimate reason, in my opinion — then that needs to be reported. It does seem strange that no one has ever brought these allegations forward before now, especially for someone as Bible-thumping sickening as Moore has been for decades!

  4. [4] 
    Mopshell wrote:

    [4] ListenWhenYouHear

    I recommend you read the WashPo article as it explains exactly why these women came forward when they did. The WashPo reporters were not looking for this story but stumbled across it while covering the special election and it took a great deal of patience and persistence on their part to persuade the women to speak to them. They had no intention of ever revealing it to anyone until the WashPo reporters came long.

    CW -

    Word is that the Alabama GOP has already launched a write-in campaign for Luther Strange. If that takes off it will split the republican vote.

  5. [5] 
    TheStig wrote:

    LWYH -4

    The WAPO interviewed roughly 30 local individuals who corroborated Moore's sexual predilections (pedo-lections?). It's not a conviction, but do Republicans, and people who vote Republican, really want that iceberg floating around in the Senate? It's just one more reason to question Moore's fitness for if more are needed in the light of his checkered "to hell with the law" judicial career. He already has two strikes, do the citizens of Alabama need 3 to say enough is enough? By the way, that's not a rhetorical question.

  6. [6] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Alabama - How would Jesus vote?

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    hwjv? that long haired radical socialist jew?

  8. [8] 
    Paula wrote:

    Good article about Dems figuring things out and working with Indivisible and other groups that sprang up spontaneously after Trump.

  9. [9] 
    Paula wrote:

    "The Republican Party’s senate campaign arm has cut financial ties with Roy Moore after four women accused him of sexual misconduct decades ago."

    Roy Moore/Bannon may split the GOP into the deplorables and the rest - whatever they are. GOP officialdom is repudiating him. Blotus will be torn between the fact that he originally backed the other guy, but Bannon is for Moore.

    Go Doug Jones!

  10. [10] 
    Balthasar wrote:

    My prediction is that Alabama Republicans' reaction won't be to try to bring Roy's numbers up, but rather to bring Doug Jones' numbers down. I'd look for a particularly un-Jesus-like barrage of negative ads to hit the air on Moore's behalf.

  11. [11] 
    Paula wrote:

    [11] Balthasar: Yep.

    The question is whether the negative ads motivate or demotivate? Looks like Dem turnout was BIG all over the country on Tuesday.

    I think Dems/Lefties will try using all the tools they've been developing this past year to help Doug Jones. Will be interesting to see what works better.

  12. [12] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Don H

    So, imagine a scenario where (any political party) gets to the stage where "there is no longer any need to take big money". (That is if you CAN imagine such a thing - I personally cannot.) So, along comes a big donor in need of a political favor and offers them a pile of cash, and they say "thanks, but we've got all the $ we need"!!!

    In what world would anybody ever turn down free money? Ain't gonna happen!!

  13. [13] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Mopshell & TheStig,

    Thanks for the heads up on that article. I made sure to pass that on to my family back home, but sadly for some of them it probably won’t change their vote.

    Funny how all these years Moore claimed that it was homosexuals that were child molesters. I swear that you can tell what sins these Evangelical politicians are guilty of by what they crusade the loudest against!

  14. [14] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Just read Moore’s interview with Hannity and it is clear that he is guilty by his refusal to say, “I never dated school-aged girls while I worked as a prosecutor.” Moore claims that he cannot remember if he dated girls from the local high school when he was in his 30’s, but doesn’t think that he did. That’s the answer of someone who knows that he is guilty, but that fears denying it happened because there might be evidence out there that would prove he is lying! If asked to name every person that I have ever gone on a date with, I might forget some names; but if you asked me by name if I ever went out with them, I would definitely remember doing so!

  15. [15] 
    Paula wrote:

    [16] Listen: Yes, Moore seems acutely conscious of making claims that can be disproven.

  16. [16] 
    Paula wrote:

    That is, he's conscious that he should avoid making claims that can be disproven.

  17. [17] 
    Paula wrote:

    [10] Remembered Trump backed Moore's opponent, but reluctantly. Said he wasn't sure it was a good idea or words to that effect. Which is much more in keeping with who Trump is.

  18. [18] 
    C. R. Stucki wrote:

    Don H

    Of COURSE the money is 'free', to the guy (or the party) receiving it. The 'favor' comes out of your pocket and mine, not out of the politician who got elected with the bribe money, right?

  19. [19] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    “It comes down to a question who is more credible in the eyes of the voters — the candidate or the accuser,” said Jerry Falwell Jr., the president of evangelical Liberty University who has endorsed Trump and Moore, both Republicans.

    “The same thing happened to President Trump a few weeks before his election last year except it was several women making allegations,” Falwell told RNS in an email.

    Falwell seems not to remember that those women only came out AFTER the tape of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting the women had gone public!

    I swear Falwell just barely misses the top spot on my “Person who is the LEAST Christ-like in the world” list! Sadly, Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson have co-championed that title for decades, but Falwell is working hard to catch up to them!

  20. [20] 
    MHorton wrote:


    Orsteen isn't on your list? "Prosperity Gospel" is so anti-Christian it makes me, an agonostic, angry.

  21. [21] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:


    Orsteen isn’t too far behind Falwell, trust me. Falwell spreads hate while Orsteen steals from the poor and those in need. Orsteen’s evilness isn’t that he preys on those that show up every week to his church as much as he preys on those homebound people who are so desperate because of illness. Orsteen’s ministry would lose its tax exempt status in a perfect world!

  22. [22] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    John M from Ct. [1] -

    Yeah, well, it's Alabama, so I'm not getting my hopes up TOO high, if ya know what I mean...

    ListenWhenYouHear [4] -

    I think it's the changing atmosphere, personally. It's been one year since the Billy Bush tape dropped. But in that time, from Weinstein on forward, there's been a tectonic shift in the American public's attitude. The only remaining question is whether that reaches into AL or not.

    Mopshell [5] -

    A Luther Strange write-in campaign would indeed be wonderful! But I also heard there's a move afoot to postpone the election, and then let Jeff Sessions step down from the Trump administration and run for his old seat.

    Watch the governor in the next few days, that's my advice. May be the best indicator of what's about to happen...

    Paula [9] -

    Thanks, I will check it out.


    And [10] -

    That also occurred to me -- Trump backed the other guy, so it'd be easy for him to walk away from Moore. No tweets yet, though, so we'll have to wait until he's on his way home from Asia, I guess...

    C. R. Stucki [14] -

    The phrase I've heard is that money in politics is like rain on an old and cracked road -- there are always cracks it will seep in to.

    ListenWhenYouHear [16] -

    Yeah, that Hannity inteview already caused a few GOP congresscritters to disavow (and dis-endorse) Moore. The next few days will be interesting, that's for sure...


  23. [23] 
    Kick wrote:


    Falwell seems not to remember that those women only came out AFTER the tape of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting the women had gone public!

    Amen, brother!

    I swear Falwell just barely misses the top spot on my “Person who is the LEAST Christ-like in the world” list! Sadly, Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson have co-championed that title for decades, but Falwell is working hard to catch up to them!

    And to catch up to his dearly departed biological father. Speaking of Falwell Sr. makes me wonder what Larry Flynt has uncovered on his latest hypocrite hotline wherein he offered to trade "Big Money" for incriminating information on "Big Orange." Must look into that.

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