A Win for Roy Moore Could Spell Trouble for Trump and the GOP

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A win for Roy Moore could spell trouble for Trump and the GOP

In today’s Republican Senate runoff in Alabama, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore is the clear favorite over appointed Sen. Luther Strange. And a Moore win could be a problem for President Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other GOP leaders who all have backed Strange.

Here’s why:

1. Democrats would have a puncher’s chance to win this seat in December: Given all of Moore’s controversies (see here), given how Karl Rove has already compared him to Todd Akin (here) and given how Strange himself has said that Moore would be “an anchor around the neck of the party,” Democrats could have a small chance – 20 percent? 30 percent? – to pull off a Scott Brown-esque upset in the December 12 general. Make no mistake, Democrat Doug Jones would be the serious underdog in this state that Trump won 62 to 34 percent in 2016. But Moore as the GOP nominee gives Democrats a better shot.

2. Moore, if he makes to the Senate, would be a nightmare for McConnell and GOP leaders: If you think Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has been a wildcard for McConnell, just wait if Moore makes it to Washington. Moore, like Paul, has been opposed to the Graham-Cassidy health-care bill. “If Graham/Cassidy is anything less than a full repeal, Judge Moore will not vote for it,” a Moore spokesperson told MSNBC’s Garrett Haake.

3. It could strengthen the GOP’s populist revolt in 2018 primaries: If Moore is victorious tonight – and if he wins the general in December – that will only strengthen the Steve Bannon/Breitbart/Nigel Farage forces in future GOP primaries. Think Arizona (where Sen. Jeff Flake is incredibly vulnerable), Nevada (ditto Sen. Dean Heller) and even Colorado (where Rep. Mike Coffman has dared Tom Tancredo to primary him). “Strange’s backers, including Senate Majority Mitch McConnell, ‘are the same people that have tried to destroy Donald J. Trump since the first day he announced for office,’ Bannon said last night at a rally for Moore, per NBC’s Alex Seitz-Wald. And The Daily Beast is reporting that Team Trump is planning to blame McConnell for losing Alabama and health care.

Now it’s possible that Strange pulls off the upset, giving Senate leaders and party strategists the opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief. But the reality is that Moore is in the driver’s seat. As the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel observed, “You know what Sen. Luther Strange really needs? GOP primary voters going to the polls thinking McConnell failed on ACA repeal again.”

Alabama’s final poll-closing time is at 8:00 pm ET.

Trump Party vs. the Republican Party

As we’ve remarked before, this Moore-vs.-Strange contest is striking, because Trump is backing the ESTABLISHMENT party guy (Strange) instead of the INSURGENT candidate. In other words, Trump is behind the Republican Party’s candidate over the more Trump Party guy. Just how different are these two parties? Here’s the split among Republicans in last week’s NBC/WSJ poll who said they considered themselves more of a supporter of Trump versus a supporter of the GOP:

Views of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

  • Trump supporters: 13 percent positive, 34 percent negative
  • Party supporters: 36 percent positive, 14 percent negative

Views of House Speaker Paul Ryan

  • Trump supporters: 35 percent positive, 33 percent negative
  • Party supporters: 71 percent positive, 9 percent negative

Satisfied with GOP leaders

  • Trump supporters: 27 percent
  • Party supporters: 51 percent

Support birthright citizenship — that all children born in U.S. should be granted citizenship

  • Trump supporters: 30 percent
  • Party supporters: 47 percent

Keep DACA

  • Trump supporters: 15 percent
  • Party supporters: 32 percent

Approve of Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio

  • Trump supporters: 73 percent
  • Party supporters: 50 percent

Approve of Trump’s handling of race relations

  • Trump supporters: 72 percent
  • Party supporters: 38 percent

Approve of Trump’s use of Twitter

  • Trump supporters: 50 percent
  • Party supporters: 31 percent

Approve of Trump’s handling of Charlottesville

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