On Tuesday, voters in Alabama will choose between two very different political styles: a flame-throwing wild card and an Establishment-backed reliable vote.
But as the Alabama Republican Senate primary draws to a close, the differences between incumbent Sen. Luther Strange and conservative firebrand Roy Moore amount to whether voters are happy with the status quo in Washington, and how they felt about their last governor.
Strange, the former state attorney general, was appointed in February by embattled former Gov. Robert Bentley, and is backed by President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in a special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Session’s former Senate seat.
Moore, the twice-ousted former Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court, was in many ways the underdog in the race. Known for his strong feelings on the Ten Commandments—the Washington Post reported the Biblical edicts are on display in at least three places in his home, including over his bed— and fierce opposition to same-sex marriage, Moore was seen more as a disruptor than a viable candidate.
That was until he finished ahead the pack in the Aug. 15 primary, beating Strange by six percentage points.
Though the field has narrowed, anti-Moore ads have flooded the airways, and Trump visited the state for a rally last week, a Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Moore around 10 points ahead of Strange. Given the President’s endorsement, it’d be easy to declare a win for the Bible-thumping Moore as a major loss for Trump, but consultants in Alabama say it’s not that simple.
“I don’t think a vote against Strange has anything to do with voting against Trump,” says David Mowery, a Montgomery-based political consultant. “I think that [voters] just feel like Trump is having to do what he can because of McConnell and because of the national implications.”
The president seemed to suggest that was the case at a rally for Strange last Friday.
“I’ll be honest, I might have made a mistake,” Trump told the crowd. “If Luther doesn’t win, they’re not going to say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time. They’re going to say, ‘Donald Trump, the President of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line. It is a terrible, terrible moment for Trump. This is total embarrassment.’”
He went on to say that if Strange loss, he would “campaign like hell” for his opponent.
Trump engenders broad support in the state of…