WASHINGTON ― Sen. Luther Strange’s (R-Ala.) bid for re-election is backed by much of the GOP establishment, which has blanketed the airwaves in Alabama for weeks with television ads in support of his campaign.
Both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who carried the Cotton State overwhelmingly in last year’s presidential election, say he deserves the job, and plan to campaign for him just days before the election on Sept. 26.
And his opponent, former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, has a long history of making controversial comments, including one just over the weekend about minorities. He was also twice removed from his position for flouting the law.
Despite those advantages, the incumbent Alabama senator has struggled to compete against Moore, a staunch evangelical who has led in most polls and who is seen as the prohibitive front-runner in the race. Why, then, is a Trump-backed candidate with serious financial support coming up short in a state that Trump carried by nearly 30 points in November?
“Strange has been pretty universally disliked in Alabama since his appointment by [former Alabama Gov. Robert] Bentley. That hump is really hard to get over,” Montgomery-based radio talk show host Dale Jackson told HuffPost.
When he was state attorney general, Strange faced accusations of stalling his investigation into Bentley, who resigned amid a sex scandal earlier this year. The conduct of Strange’s deputy during a public corruption case against former Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard, who was sentenced to four years in jail, also raised questions in some corners of the state about Strange’s fitness for office.
Strange also hasn’t had much success defining an opponent who appears to be ― at least so far ― made out of the same material as “Teflon Don” Trump. Attacks lobbed by the Strange campaign and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), against Moore have had marginal success. (One recent poll, however, did show Strange narrowing the gap.)
“What most people outside of Alabama don’t realize is that Moore is probably the most Trump-esque candidate in the country right now,” Alabama-based GOP pollster and strategist Brent Buchanan said. “Say anything and it doesn’t affect his numbers, no matter how much you attack him.”
In their latest salvo, the SLF aired an ad highlighting comments from…