Politics & Policy

The Moore-Strange Race Cannot Get Any… More Strange.

From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

The Moore-Strange Race Cannot Get Any… More Strange.

Happy primary day, Alabama Republicans. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. today.

What exactly is the argument against the incumbent, Senator Luther Strange? What has he done in office to make Alabama Republicans decide they need a change?

He’s voted in agreement with President Trump’s position about 92 percent of the time. He disagreed on imposing sanctions on Russia, a vote where only 2 senators voted “no.” He voted against the 2017 fiscal year appropriations bill, declaring, “Planned Parenthood and sanctuary cities will continue to receive federal funding, while our nation’s aging military arsenal will still have to keep tightening its belt.” (The Senate passed it anyway, 79 to 18.)

Perhaps the fairest gripe is Strange flip-flopped on the filibuster. In April, Strange wrote a letter to McConnell and Chuck Schumer, urging they “preserve existing rules, practices and traditions as they pertain to the rights of Members to engage in extended debate on legislation before the United States Senate.”

Earlier this month – as the primary race was heating up – Strange changed his mind:  ”I respectfully withdraw my signature from the aforementioned letter and instead make a declaration that it is necessary for Republican Senate Leadership to work to change the filibuster rule, as President Trump as requested, and give the American people’s Senators the opportunity to debate on any legislation that can receive a simple majority vote.”

I occasionally hear, “Strange is McConnell’s guy!” But it shouldn’t surprise anyone that McConnell has a closer relationship with the senator he’s worked with for the past six months than Roy Moore. And of course McConnell is going to support keeping the incumbent in office; that’s how a majority leader ensures he still has a majority! Incumbent Republicans support other incumbent Republicans; complaining about that is like complaining about the rain.

During their moderator-free debate, Moore suggested that McConnell is somehow manipulating the president to abandon his agenda:

“The problem is President Trump’s being cut off in his office,” Moore said. “He’s being redirected by people like McConnell who do not support his agenda, who will not support his agenda in the future. I think we need to go back and look at these things. And look at what’s going on. This is the most unbelievable race I have ever been in.”

(Have you noticed how little Trump is held accountable for his own decisions? It’s always some bad outside influence that somehow Jedi mind-tricked Trump into making a decision against his own interest and agenda: McConnell, Paul Ryan, Jared Kushner, Ivanka… Where does the buck stop, again?)

Is it just that Roy Moore has a better flair for the dramatic?

Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore drew a handgun from his pocket during a campaign rally on Monday as he made a final push to sway voters ahead of the state’s Republican runoff for U.S. Senate on Tuesday.

Moore — who’s vying for the Republican Senate nomination against the incumbent, Sen. Luther Strange — pulled the gun out in an effort to convince voters that he believes in the Second Amendment, or the right to bear arms.

“It’s been very hard for my wife and myself to wither two, nearly three months of negative ads that we couldn’t answer with money because we didn’t have it. Ads that were completely false. That I don’t believe in the Second Amendment,” Moore, a former chief justice, moments before he pulled out the handgun.

The good news is, his finger is not on the trigger. Remember, everyone:

  • Always treat all guns as if they are loaded.

  • Never point the gun at anything you are not willing to kill.

  • Keep your finger off the trigger until your sights are on target (and you are prepared to shoot).

  • Be sure of your target and what is beyond it or behind it.

If Alabama Republicans genuinely believe that Moore is “conservative” and Strange isn’t, it confirms the notion that “conservative” no longer measures ideology, policy positions, philosophy or ideas. It’s all about attitude and style now.

Would a Roy Moore victory mean trouble for other Senate incumbents? Maybe, but these circumstances may not be easily replicated: Roy Moore is much better known than a lot of Senate primary challengers, and the runoff law helps him a lot.

“There are those who think that the potential success of Moore’s candidacy could be a jumping off point for insurgent challengers to sitting GOP senators in 2018,” said Geoffrey Skelley, associated editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball, which is produced at the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

“However, each race will have its own idiosyncrasies and different candidates with certain strengths and weaknesses,” said Skelley. “A Moore win will galvanize insurgent forces in the GOP, but it wouldn’t necessarily guarantee the start of something bigger.”

He noted that 2018 races in Nevada and Arizona will likely feature insurgent candidates facing incumbents who have been critical of Trump. Neither of those states, however, have primary runoffs and only a plurality is needed to win.

“Funny enough, additional candidates in states like Arizona and Nevada might help the GOP incumbents by fragmenting the anti-incumbent vote,” he said.

Ask Lindsey Graham. Every Senate incumbent prefers three to six primary rivals instead of just one.

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