Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Crystal Ball Is Foggy

I have observed this year's special elections to fill vacancies created by Trump administration appointments with a kind of amused bewilderment.

The special elections were all billed as referendums on the president — but all the vacancies were in clearly red states with red voting histories in good years and bad. I suppose if any of those races had gone for a Democrat, that would have been big news. But the fact that no Democrat won a special election is non–news. Kind of a "dog bites man" story. When the man bites the dog, that's news.

The same is true in reverse of the gubernatorial elections that are traditionally held in Virginia and New Jersey in the odd–numbered years following presidential elections.

At one time Virginia had the longest streak of support for Republican presidential nominees in the entire South. It was the only Southern state that voted against Jimmy Carter in 1976, but shifting demographics led it to vote for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 and then Hillary Clinton in 2016. Today it is regarded as dependably Democratic.

Thus, while polls in this year's gubernatorial race suggested the Republican nominee might have a chance at an upset, it was no surprise when the Democrat won.

Nor was it a surprise that a Democrat won in New Jersey. The outgoing Republican incumbent was extremely unpopular, and New Jersey has a history of shifting political allegiances. No, that wasn't a surprise.

Now the scene shifts to Alabama, where a special election will be held next Tuesday to choose a successor for Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the U.S. Senate. Republican Roy Moore has been beset by sexual harassment charges that narrowed the gap between him and Democrat Doug Jones — for a time. Recent polls suggest things are returning to form in Alabama, and Moore's lead, while closer than one usually sees in Alabama elections, is expanding.

I know there are still some Democrats, perhaps many, who believe Jones can pull off an upset, but what they fail to comprehend is that Alabama is a really red state — not pink or purple like some states but deeply red — and polls suggest that the voters in Alabama are gravitating toward issues now. My guess is it would take a sexual bombshell eclipsing everything that has come before in order for Jones to win this race.

One issue in particular seems to be driving Republicans and independents who had been wavering — abortion. Jones holds a liberal position on abortion; Moore's position has been more in line with average Alabama voters

Many folks up North like to belittle Southerners as backward, ignorant, uneducated. But that is an unfair stereotype, and the voters in Alabama are smart enough to know what the margin in the Senate looks like. They know which party and its candidates hold positions closer to their own and which do not, and this, one of the reddest of the red states, is not likely to send a Democrat to the Senate for the first time in a quarter of a century.

I know Democrats are eager to seize control of one or both chambers of Congress in the midterm elections, but they would be better advised to pin their hopes on races in more centrist states.

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