Support for Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore has been dwindling after several women accused him of sexually assaulting them when they were as young as 14. Many Republican senators have announced that they want him to drop out of the race and the Republican National Committee (RNC) has withdrawn their funding from his race, leaving Moore with little money and support. However, one person that has decided to take Roy Moore’s side is President Trump. He said on Tuesday that “We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat” and that Mr. Moore has said “it didn’t happen. You have to listen to him also.” With this show of support, Trump is breaking with most of his party and aligning himself with an alleged child sex predator. Why is he doing this?
If we look past the sexual assault allegations against Trump himself, the reason for the White House’s support for Moore might be something that White House advisor Kellyanne Conway alluded to in an interview with Fox and Friends. When asked if Alabamians should vote for Roy Moore, she responded: “I’m telling you that we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through,” revealing how much the White House is willing to excuse in order to attain some kind of legislative victory before the midterm elections of 2018. After all, Trump did promise to introduce and fight for the passage of both tax-cuts in general and more specifically for the middle class within his first 100 days. With the repeated failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, the current tax-cut proposal might be one of the last opportunities for the Trump administration to secure a win. They are apparently willing to endorse someone like Roy Moore to get there.
The polls have been tightening in Alabama as support for Moore has decreased so much since the sexual assault allegations that his Democratic opponent Doug Jones has now even garnered a slight lead in an otherwise solidly Republican state. Moore’s decline in the polls doesn’t mean that herds of previously loyal Republicans are flocking to Jones, but it could indicate that many of them at least won’t get out and vote come Dec. 12. Jackie Curtiss, who is chair of the Young Republican Federation of Alabama and obviously a strong Republican, told NBC News: “At this point, I would probably not even go to vote on Dec. 12.” She also spoke of a generational and geographical divide that is splitting the voters.
Republicans don’t have to vote for the Democratic opponent for Roy Moore to lose, they just have to stay home.
Low turnout can win or lose an election. So when a candidate is accused of sexual assault and has been criticized by the party establishment for his actions and comments, what do you do to make sure that people still want to get out and vote? You focus on issues that aren’t tied to the candidate’s actions in an attempt to avoid the race becoming about personal character. This is in part why Evangelicals stuck to “non-Christian” candidates like Trump and why they still stick to someone like Moore. They might not be excited by who their candidate is as a person, but they are strong opponents of gay marriage, abortion and many believe that Christian ideals and religious freedom is declining. A vote for a candidate like Moore will do more to ensure that their voices are heard in Washington and that is what matters to them, rather than who he is as a person. With 35% of Alabamians identifying as white Evangelical Protestant and Moore’s extremely strong focus on God, their shared disdain for the fake news combined with many Evangelicals leaders in Alabama still supporting him after the allegation, those voters are pretty locked down.
The problem for Moore isn’t voters like the Evangelicals, but rather voters like Jackie Curtiss and more mainstream Republicans who perhaps don’t care as much about Moore’s promise to bring the “truth about God to our Capitol.” These might be voters who are similar to the ones that weren’t super excited about Trump, but wanted to put a Republican in the White House to ensure the repeal and replace of Obamacare, a conservative Supreme Court justice and the shared Republican dream of tax-cuts. The prospect of tax-cuts could be a force that motivates those unsure voters to not stay at home, even though they don’t like Roy Moore.
Tax-cuts is the kind of issue that could, in theory, bring voters like Jackie Curtiss to the polls, but with Republicans’ continued failure to unite and pass legislation, in combination with a deficit-increasing tax-cut that’s only supported by 25% of voters, will anyone feel even mildly excited to cast their ballot for a Republican just because? Moreover, according to a Fox News poll, only 8% of registered voters said that taxes is the most important issue facing Alabama.
While the Supreme Court has proven to be a motivating force for Republican and Trump voters, that probably won’t be enough, as there are no current vacancies that need to be filled. The prospect of filling a vacancy sometime in the future is more abstract than it was in 2016, when everyone knew that someone was going to be appointed and the party that controlled the federal government would be the one to choose who. Asking people to vote for someone who was banned from a mall due to his repeated harassment of teenage girls just to give the Republicans a slightly larger majority in the case of an eventual Supreme Court vote isn’t an amazing pitch. It’s an even harder sell when you consider that they only need 51 votes, which is what they would have without Moore’s seat, so Moore isn’t that necessary.
Asking people to vote for someone who was banned from a mall due to his repeated harassment of teenage girls just to give the Republicans a slightly larger majority in the case of an eventual Supreme Court vote isn’t an amazing pitch.
In 2016, the Republicans were promising that if they just got control of the White House and of Congress, they would do great things, but everyone can see that that isn’t the case. In Alabama, 69% disapprove of the job Republicans are doing in Congress. With very little to excite Republican voters, many of them could just not turn out on Election Day. With polls in favor of Jones, that could be enough, assuming that Moore doesn’t recover in the polls due to the story disappearing from the media focus or some sort of rebellion against these claims made by the Washington Post and the media that would drive voters to the polls in the name of fighting “fake news.”
There has been a slight trend towards this, which can be seen in some evangelicals saying their support for Moore increased after the allegations, but it would take a lot of angry Republican voters for that to be enough at this point.
Unpopular tax-cuts promised by an ineffective Congress might not be the carrot that the White House hopes it can be.
Despite 37% of Alabamians believing that the allegations against Moore are false, polls clearly show that support for Moore is on a decline. Moore will have to hope that the White House’s hinting to tax-cuts, partisanships and his Christian-conservative agenda is enough to get people to go out to vote, even if they despise him and what he is accused of.
Photo: AP Photo, via Politico.com