A top Alabama radio talk show host told Big League Politics that Republicans in his state are sending an angry message to President Donald J. Trump and Sen. Luther J. Strange III in Tuesday’s GOP primary.
“I said this morning on the air that as much as Alabama likes President Trump, as much as we support his agenda, Alabama does not need nor want President Trump coming into this state and telling us how to vote,” said Matt Murphy, one half of Birmingham’s Talk 99.5 FM “Matt and Aunie” show with Andrea Lindenberg. It is the most listens to political talk show in the state.
Murphy said he expects former state chief justice Roy S. Moore to defeat Strange in the runoff between the two men, who were the top vote-getters in the Aug. 15 primary with neither man garnering at least 50 percent of the vote.
“Next Tuesday, they are going to send a message that Trump needs to hear loud and clear: We expect significant changes—not just in the White House—but on Capitol Hill as to how they are doing business,” he said.
An Alabama political operative with ties to both the Strange campaign and the Washington Republicans working to help Strange told Big League Politics that the president is boxed into backing Strange and he has no choice, but to make the best of it.
“I’ve been told that in addition to the Strange campaign having trouble rounding local politicians to join the senator’s rally with Trump Friday, they are having trouble with the airport welcoming ceremony,” the operative said.
“People love Trump, but if Strange arrives with the president on Air Force One, nobody wants to be there and be seen with Luther,” the operative said.
Murphy said another factor working for Moore and against Strange is the frustration Alabama conservatives feel regarding the state’s Republican establishment, which for the first time, since Reconstruction, controls both the legislature and the governor’s mansion.
“The Republicans are a lot better at making campaign promises than they are on delivering,” Murphy said. “The progress in draining the Montgomery Swamp is a lot slower than a lot of us would have like to have seen, so you are witnessing some backlash.”
Moore, a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, came to national prominence as the state’s chief justice, twice. The first time was in 2003 when Moore flaunted a federal judge’s order and installed a nearly 3-ton marble display of the 10 Commandments. In that controversy, Moore was forced off the bench by a special panel convened by Attorney William G. Prior, now a federal judge.
The second time came when Moore, once again elected to be the state chief justice in 2013, refused to cooperate with the issuing of same-sex marriage certificates in 2016. In the middle of the ensuing controversy, Moore resigned from his bench in April and began working to win the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jefferson B. “Jeff” Sessions.
Murphy said when Strange was appointed by Gov. Robert J. Bentley Feb. 9 to replace Sessions, it upset many of his callers because at the time Strange was the state’s attorney general, the man investigating the governor’s conduct in relation to his alleged affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason.
The governor resigned Apr. 10.
“Many of us have concerns about how Judge Moore handled himself during the 10 Commandments monument situation back in oh-three and with the gay marriage with he returned to the bench,” Murphy said. “But, I don’t think there is any doubt that he is a man of personal convictions and he is not going to be told what to do in DC.”
While Moore has the reputation as a man of integrity, Strange is seen as an instrument of Majority Leader A. Mitchell “Mitch” McConnell (R.-Ky.), who has raised and directed millions of dollars to discredit Moore and bolster Strange, he said.
“I don’t think it can be overstated how much Alabamans dislike Mitch McConnell and consider him part of the Swamp,” he said.
“As much as this is an election between Roy Moore and Luther Strange, this is really a chance for Alabamans to tell off Washington, D.C.”