If former judge Roy S. Moore defeats Sen. Luther J. Strange III in the Sept. 26 Alabama Republican Senate primary runoff and then goes on to win the seat against Democrat G. Douglas Jones, he will not only kick a Karl Rove client out of the Senate, he also blocks another Rove client from joining the Supreme Court.
First, here is some political reality. Both Moore and Strange are locks to defeat Jones, who served as President William J. Clinton’s U.S. Attorney for the northern region of the state.
Another reality is that both Moore and Strange would have nearly identical voting records in the Senate—with the only exception being that Moore will finally pay back federal Judge William G. Pryor for kicking him off the Alabama Supreme Court by blocking him from the highest court in the land.
Pryor was on President Donald J. Trump’s short list to replace Justice Antonin Scalia, losing out at the last days to Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. Smart money has Pryor as the next pick, especially if he remains the top pick of the Federalist Society.
If Strange, like Pryor a former Rove client, keeps his seat, nothing and no one stops Pryor from getting the bump up to the high court. In 1998 and 2002, “Big Luther” was Pryor’s campaign chairman for his runs for attorney general–campaigns that also hired Rove as a consultant.
Expect Strange to be the campaign manager in the Senate cloakrooms for putting Pryor on the Supreme Court.
For most people, the only thing they know about Moore is that in 2003, as the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, he installed a nearly 3-ton display of the 10 Commandments in the rotunda of the Supreme Court building and that he lost his job when he refused a court order to remove the display.
Few people remember that the federal court challenge to the display was brought by the Southern Poverty Law Center and that when the court ruled against Moore, it was Pryor, as the attorney general, who convened the nine-judge panel that had Moore removed from office.
Pryor said at the time that he was upholding the rule of law.
Yet, what he was really doing settling an old score for Rove.
In the 1990s, Rove developed a strong line of business as a campaign consultant for elected judgeships in Texas and Alabama, urging his clients to rail against trial lawyers. However, Moore, who then and now a political force unto himself, took the opposite tack. Instead of taking on trial lawyers, Moore stood up for them as champions of the little people against entrenched interests.
In short, Moore was bad for business.
Returning to the situation in 2017, the harsh reality for Strange, Pryor, Rove—along with Rove’s acolyte Kristin Davidson, who just joined the Strange campaign—is the Moore is on the glide path to winning the runoff.
According to Montgomery-based Southeast Research poll conducted Aug 29 through Aug. 31, Strange is the choice of 31 percent of Republicans with Moore the choice of 52 percent.
President Donald J. Trump shocked Capitol Hill conservatives when he endorsed Strange Aug. 8, a week before the Aug. 15 regular primary. In that primary, nine Republicans vied for the party nod, including House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Morris J. “Mo” Brooks.
In the Aug. 15 vote, no one garnered 50 percent of the vote, which triggered the run-off between the two top candidates, Moore and Strange.
Senator Luther Strange has done a great job representing the people of the Great State of Alabama. He has my complete and total endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
Trump’s endorsement meant the president overlooked Strange’s tenure as an oil industry lobbyist in Washington and as a Birmingham power broker.
It could be that Trump was acting out of courtesy to Majority Leader A. Mitchell “Mitch” McConnell (R.-Ky.), which may turn out to be the last such ticket the majority leader had left.
The Atlanta Falcons would tell you that no lead is safe, but a sure sign that the Strange campaign has given up the ghost is the endorsements coming in for Moore.
Tuesday, the Senate Conservative Fund, founded by former senator and Heritage Foundation president James DeMint, endorsed Moore. Then, Chairman of the House Freedom Caucus Rep. Mark Meadows (R.-N.C.) threw his support behind Moore Wednesday.
“The people of Alabama are seeing millions of dollars in false advertising flow into their state. From what I know about the people of Alabama, their vote is not for sale. They want a strong man–a principled conservative–to send a clear message to Washington,” Meadows said. “I look forward to working with him to advance conservative principles by repealing ObamaCare, passing real tax reform and securing our borders.”
Perhaps more important than either of those endorsements was the private meeting Moore and his wife had with Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News Thursday night at his Capitol Hill residence.
It is interesting, too, that Meadows would name-check the advertising pouring into Alabama on behalf of Strange. A lot of the advertising was paid for McConnell.
In July, McConnell’s camp told Politico the leader’s PAC was prepared to spend $8 million to keep Strange in the Senate, in addition to hosting a $10,000-per-plate fundraiser for the incumbent.
McConnell’s sway and swag on Capitol Hill is rooted in both his success reaching into primaries to keep conservatives out of his caucus and his reputation as a master political strategist.
After pitching shutouts in the 2014 and 2016, a Moore victory would signal that McConnell’s dice have cooled down.
As for McConnell’s reputation as a master political strategist?
C’mon? Who believes that anymore?