News coverage roundup ahead of Alabama GOP Senate primary


A brief roundup of news coverage ahead of Tuesday’s Alabama U.S. Senate primary:

POLITICO – “The GOP rebel threatening to snag Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat

Roy Moore lacks the war chest of two chief rivals in his bid to become the next senator from Alabama. He didn’t land the coveted endorsement of President Donald Trump and doesn’t enjoy the advantages of incumbency. Yet the controversial former state Supreme Court justice is coasting over his Republican challengers in Tuesday’s closely watched GOP Senate primary. Moore is set to easily secure a place in a September runoff, as the establishment-backed Sen. Luther Strange and Rep. Mo Brooks scrape for the second spot.

Should Moore become the GOP nominee and the next senator from Alabama, his bombastic personality and antipathy toward Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are sure to make more trouble for the GOP leader, who’s taking constant flak from Trump as it is. McConnell and his allies are spending millions to elect Strange, and in response, Moore has made McConnell the symbol of everything he opposes in Washington.

“I resent people from Washington, raising money in Washington, and sending negative ads to Alabama and trying to control the vote of the people,” Moore said in an interview after a GOP executive committee meeting here. “If the Washington crowd wants somebody, the people of Alabama generally don’t.”

New York Times – “Despite Donald Trump’s support, Alabama Senator struggles to a primary finish

Sen. Strange wields an endorsement from the president of the United States, is the beneficiary of a multimillion-dollar campaign from allies of Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and has the backing of influential conservative interest groups like the National Rifle Association.

But Strange is wheezing into Tuesday’s Republican Senate primary here. He is grasping to secure a second-place finish and a slot in a September runoff with Roy Moore, the twice-deposed former State Supreme Court justice and evangelical-voter favorite who is expected to be the top vote-getter but may fall short of the majority needed to win outright.

And while Republicans have not lost a Senate race in Alabama since 1992, national Democrats have started to quietly consider competing for the seat if their preferred candidate, Doug Jones, wins the nomination and Moore is the Republican standard-bearer.

New York Daily News – “In Alabama’s Senate race, contenders fight over who is Trump’s biggest fan

At first glance, U.S. Representative Brooks seems exactly the kind of candidate President Donald Trump would love to see win Tuesday’s Republican primary election for Alabama’s open U.S. Senate seat.

The 63-year-old Republican is a Freedom Caucus member and an immigration hardliner who calls opponent Strange “Lying Luther,” echoing Trump’s penchant for bestowing insulting nicknames on his political foes.

“Trump would like to drain the swamp; Brooks would like to blow it up,” said Larry Powell, a professor of communication at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. “But their goals are the same.”

Yet it was Strange, not Brooks, who earned a coveted prize last week in a race that could measure Trump’s influence in a state he carried easily in last year’s election, despite recent indications that his support among Republicans may be softening.

The Associated Press – “Alabama’s U.S. Senate race all about Donald Trump love, swamp hate

In the Alabama race for Attorney General Sessions’ former Senate seat, the Republican slugfest primary is about love of all things Trump — with contenders competing to woo Trump voters — and disdain of the so-called swamp of Washington D.C.

While Strange is boosted by Trump’s endorsement, he could also be dragged down by accusations of his ties to establishment Republicans.

Strange is backed by a super political action committee tied to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The PAC has pumped millions into an advertising blitz on behalf of Strange as it seeks to beat back GOP insurgents. Ever since a series of messy primaries led to losing general election Senate races in 2010 and 2012, Republicans led by McConnell of Kentucky have worked aggressively to defeat challengers deemed as fringe.

But that backing has become a major rallying cry for Strange’s challengers. Brooks has labeled him as the candidates of the “swamp critters.”

Washington Post – “Donald Trump’s feuding base faces showdown in Alabama Senate race

For Republicans, the Alabama contest is a snapshot of the party’s churning base at this moment in the Trump presidency. In a deep-red state, the dominant squabbles are not over ideological purity — that GOP test of old — but over loyalty to Trump and over who has the most visceral connection with his core voters.

The violence in Charlottesville, sparked by white nationalists, has hovered over the final sprint, and Republican candidates have issued statements of condemnation. As with Trump, some of them did not mention white nationalism or white supremacy by name.

“I was hoping for a quiet, lazy summer in our very humid state. That’s not to be the case this year,” Terry Lathan, the chair of the Alabama GOP, said in an interview.

Until last week, Republicans had been immersed in a bitterly fought but relatively sleepy referendum on Strange, with the incumbent — who is nicknamed “Big Luther” — arguing that he was a dogged foe of President Barack Obama’s policies as state attorney general and a reliable vote for Trump’s priorities. His opponents accused him of being a polished and well-connected “swamp critter” who was more aligned with McConnell than with Trump, who won 62 percent of the vote in Alabama last year.

Then Trump tweeted.

George Will – “’Republican Gothic’ in Alabama primary

Southern Gothic is a literary genre and, occasionally, a political style that, like the genre, blends strangeness and irony. Consider the current primary campaign to pick the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate seat in Alabama vacated by Jeff Sessions. It illuminates, however, not a regional peculiarity but a national perversity, that of the Republican Party … Is this Northern Gothic? No, it is Republican Gothic, the grotesque becoming normal in a national party whose dishonest and, one hopes, futile assault on Brooks is shredding the remnants of its dignity. – “Primary for Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat is the strangest election of 2017

As with anything involving the Republican Party, it’s all about Donald Trump. Pundits have concluded that the race is “all about being the most pro-Trump.” That’s not entirely accurate. It’s about being like Trump, not claiming an endorsement or promising to be the most Trump-like.

As the race unfolds, one is tempted to conclude that nothing can be gleaned from the results of this election. It is, after all, following a pattern from 2016: the only thing we can expect is the unexpected.

There is a method to the madness of the Alabama voter. He or she won’t support someone because Trump says so, which explains Strange’s struggles. He or she won’t pick a candidate who trumpets how he’ll support the president more than anyone else, which explains why Brooks started out a distant third. That’s not what motivated the Alabama voters to pick the unconventional Trump. The Alabama voter wants someone in Trump’s style, the freewheeling, unpredictable candidate who is “authentic” enough to say what’s on his mind, even if it costs him an election or gets him impeached.

Democrats don’t typically perform well in Alabama. The last Democrat to serve in the Senate was Howell Heflin, who left office in January 1997 when his term expired. Democrats haven’t won an election to the upper chamber since Richard Shelby was re-elected in 1992 (he switched to the Republican Party two years later).

But that could change. – “Senate candidates vary on biggest issue facing Alabamians”The three GOP frontrunners … listed different issues as the biggest challenge facing Alabamians — Washington, D.C., the nation’s growing debt, and jobs.

The three GOP frontrunners … listed different issues as the biggest challenge facing Alabamians — Washington, D.C., the nation’s growing debt, and jobs.

The TimesDaily asked each Republican and Democrat in the primary one question: What’s the largest issue facing this state, and what would you do in the U.S. Senate to correct it?

“Corrupt Washington insiders have failed the people of Alabama,” former Alabama Chief Justice Moore said.

For Brooks, the issue is a looming economic crisis as the national debt approaches $20 trillion.

“The threat of federal bankruptcy and insolvency is far and away the biggest threat to America and hence, Alabama,” Brooks said. “And there’s not a close second.”

For Strange, it is jobs and the economy.

“Alabamians have suffered under the Obama economy, watching the cost of living rise without seeing a wage increase,” said Strange, the former state attorney general whose appointment to the seat in February by now-disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley has been fodder for his opponents.

Newsmax — “Ex-Judge Roy Moore polling as favorite in race for Jeff Sessions’ Senate seat

Moore doesn’t have the support of President Trump, doesn’t have the support of establishment Republicans, and doesn’t have the war chest of his competitors, but the polling says he has the support of Alabamians … “I resent people from Washington, raising money in Washington, and sending negative ads to Alabama and trying to control the vote of the people,” Moore told Politico. “If the Washington crowd wants somebody, the people of Alabama generally don’t.” Moore was suspended from Alabama’s Supreme Court in 2015 after refusing to enforce same-sex marriage handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Vietnam veteran has also spoken out against transgender people serving in the military. And that has apparently tapped into a sentiment with Alabamians.

“They’re that out of touch in Washington that they don’t understand that Alabama people aren’t that out of touch,” Moore told Politico.