By MARSHA MERCER
The voters of Alabama have a chance to show Virginia wasn’t a fluke.
Last month, a Democratic wave carried Ralph Northam to victory in the Virginia gubernatorial race, washing out Republican Ed Gillespie, who had run a throw-back campaign.
More significantly, Old Dominion voters showed the door to a passel of veteran Republican state legislators, threatening GOP control of the House of Delegates. Several delegate seats are still in doubt, pending recounts.
After the drubbing, President Donald Trump tweeted that Gillespie lost because he “did not embrace me or what I stand for,” even though Gillespie espoused Trump’s positions on immigration, Confederate monuments and other hot-button issues.
If Alabama voters reject Republican Roy Moore as their U.S. senator Tuesday, they’ll also be turning thumbs down on Trump, Moore’s protector in chief, and on the toxic politics of Steve Bannon, Trump’s former chief strategist.
That’s a big “if.”
No Democrat has won a statewide race in Alabama since 2008, and Trump won 63 percent of the vote last year. Much depends on whether Democrats can turn out black and independent voters for Democrat Doug Jones.
If the tide runs blue in Alabama, Trump won’t be able to blame Moore for keeping him at arm’s length. Trump has gone all-in for Moore and vice versa.
“Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need . . . Moore to win in Alabama. We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!” Trump tweeted Monday.
A grateful Moore tweeted he “can’t wait to help” Trump drain the swamp.
If Moore loses, Trump won’t be able to erase his own failure by deleting his favorable tweets about Moore the way he did after he backed Luther Strange, Moore’s opponent in the GOP primary, and Strange lost.
A Moore loss would confirm Time’s choice of “The Silence Breakers” as its Person of the Year. The Silence Breakers is the magazine’s name for the many women who finally came forward this year to tell their stories of sexual harassment.
Among them was Leigh Corfman, who told The Washington Post that Moore touched her sexually when she was 14 and Moore was 32 and an assistant district attorney.
“Nine women have come forward to describe inappropriate encounters with Roy Moore, including several who say he pursued them when they were teenagers. Moore has called the allegations `false’ and `malicious.’ `Specifically, I do not know any of these women nor have I ever engaged in sexual misconduct with any woman,’ he said in late November,” Time reported.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said if Moore is elected, he would “immediately have an issue with the Ethics Committee,” which could lead eventually to expulsion.
Sen. Cory Gardner, Republican of Colorado, said “the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.”
Political expediency being what it is, though, such high-minded resolve could evaporate.
Consider what happened to Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, who had the guts to say Moore’s election would be “a stain on the GOP and the nation.”
“No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity,” Romney tweeted.
Romney’s moral stance should have earned him praise. Instead, Bannon, at a rally for Moore in Alabama, blasted Romney for failing to serve in the military and for his draft deferment for missionary work. Moore is a West Point graduate.
What Bannon failed to mention, of course, was Trump’s five draft deferments – four for education and a medical one for bone spurs in both his heels.
Voters in Alabama can tell the rest of the country they’re not buying cynical claptrap from the likes of Bannon and Trump.
It may not happen. Late polls show Moore with a slight lead, and the race is rated a toss-up by Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball newsletter published by the University of Virginia Center for Politics.
Still, a Democratic win in Alabama would show Virginia was not an outlier. It also would be a good omen for Democrats in next fall’s congressional elections.
Did I mention that’s a big “if”?
©2017 Marsha Mercer. All rights reserved.