Political prognostication is a tricky business, as any commentator who miscalculated the 2016 presidential election will readily admit. Only a fool would try to predict a race as tricky as the December 12 special election in Alabama, where a beleaguered and highly controversial Republican candidate faces a ho-hum Democrat for a Senate seat representing a deep-red state.
So, anyway, here we go.
That Democratic candidate, former U.S. attorney Doug Jones, will prevail. The Republican, Roy Moore, will not be able to overcome the revelations, first reported in the Washington Post and then expounded upon elsewhere, of his alleged acts of child molestation from decades past. Even in the conservative stronghold of Alabama, personal character matters enough to overcome partisan preference — at least for the number of voters required to swing the election.
Recent polling supports this hypothesis. Take a look at the current polling average (as of Wednesday) from RealClearPolitics:
The graph shows Moore’s support on a downward spiral. Only a handful of polls have been conducted since the first of the accusations became known earlier in November, all showing a drop for Moore. Of those pollsters who’ve conducted multiple polls since the bombshell Washington Post story, all have shown lower numbers for Moore in the most recent of their polls, according to an analysis from FiveThirtyEight’s Harry Enten.
And we can expect things to get worse, much worse, for Moore. In 2012, Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat from solid-red Missouri, ran for re-election against a controversial Republican of her own: Todd Akin. After a shocking public comment in which Akin said the female body had a way of preventing pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape,” his support crumbled. But, as with Moore, it took a while for this decline to manifest in the polls.
The cases are similar, and we still have weeks to go before election day. We can expect Moore’s campaign to fall the same way Akin’s did.
For further validation, consider that the Cook Political Report has changed the race’s status to “toss up,” and that Sabato’s Crystal Ball says the contest “leans Democratic.” It’s absurd to consider a federal election in Alabama being so favorable to Democrats, yet each of these sources is well-respected in the political science community. The accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore — and his prior controversies over gay rights and religious freedom, which alone seemed to disqualify the candidate in the minds of many voters even before the latest scandal broke — are just that damning.
No one knows with certainty what will happen in Alabama. But if I had to put money on it, I’d say Roy Moore’s notorious political career is fast approaching a fatal denouement. ■
For an alternative take, read Hermes’ piece: Roy Moore should stay in the race.