Last week, former Business Council of Alabama chairwoman Katie Boyd Britt announced her candidacy for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat up next year.
Almost immediately, she nailed down the endorsement from the seat’s current occupant, the retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, her former boss.
Usually, that would be a big headline, but aside from Politico and a handful of local media outlets, it essentially went unnoticed.
One might speculate since Britt is running against U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks of the fifth congressional district, who has already earned the coveted endorsement of former President Donald Trump, the endorsement from Shelby seems a little anticlimactic.
Haven’t we seen this before in Alabama’s recent barrage of U.S. Senate campaigns?
Most recently, it was Jeff Sessions, the former U.S. senator, who left office to serve in the Trump administration as the U.S. attorney general.
Sessions seemed to be a last-minute choice in the 2020 election cycle for some who did not think much of Tommy Tuberville and did not think then-Congressman Bradley Byrne could win.
They were correct about Byrne but wrong about why Byrne could not win. It had less to do with Byrne and more to do with the mood of the electorate.
There was a similar mistake made in 2017 to fill the vacancy left behind by Sessions.
Despite many qualified candidates willing to take the free shot on goal and run for U.S. Senate, the same political establishment strong armed those candidates into not running so a route could be paved for Luther Strange.
When it was all said and done, the 2017 field was made up of Strange and candidates not beholden to an existing power structure. Included among them were Roy Moore, Brooks, Trip Pittman and others.
Sessions and Strange were both a gross misreading of Alabama’s Republican electorate.
Granted, Sessions had problems with Trump and his time at the Justice Department ended badly. But Strange was not what the Republican electorate wanted in Alabama at the time.
Strange had Trump’s endorsement, which proved the Trump seal of approval was not an absolute for winning elections.
Every election is different and the 2017 runoff Roy Moore won was a low-turnout runoff for an off-year election. Even with Trump, there was no enthusiasm for Strange and he lost by nine points, despite outspending his opponent by millions of dollars.
Is there any reason to believe these same establishment, pro-business forces that appear to be supporting Britt have learned anything from the 2020 and 2017 campaigns?
Too often, well-funded candidates in Alabama elections lean on out-of-state consultants to steer the direction of their campaigns.
These are the guys who helicopter in and insist on a simplified approach — usually something along the lines of playing up their similarities to Trump or taking a straightforward approach to a hot-button social issue that is utterly irrelevant to the news cycle.
If you are running in a Republican primary in Alabama, it is assumed you are pro-life, pro-school choice, etc.
Candidates will accentuate these bona fides sometimes to distract from a weak position on immigration or any other issue that might make them seem a little too in the tank for the chambers of commerce and big business.
Sometimes it nears the boundaries of condescending, which is the wrong approach to take with a Republican base electorate that already feels betrayed by the country’s elites.
A head pat with a canned line about being pro-Second Amendment will only piss off an already skeptical electorate.
The so-called bluebloods who reside in Spring Hill, Mountain Brook and Old Cloverdale, who make up the corporate boardrooms of Alabama’s Big Mules and assemble in the luxury suites of Bryant–Denny Stadium on Saturdays in the fall, should not think they trot out a few cookie-cutter television advertisements and carpet-bomb the airwaves to cruise to victory.
There is a balance to be had. You can find the right candidate who could talk about the importance of lower taxes and creating a so-called business-friendly environment while at the same time vowing to defend our public schools from the scourge of wokeism and critical race theory.
That is what a Republican base electorate that participates in a GOP primary in an election with a Democrat in the White House wants to hear.
Just do not try to fake it.
If there is one thing the GOP base can sense it is a phony.
After being lied to time after time — be it Obamacare or any other declaration made by a candidate on the campaign trail only to have those efforts fall apart for the sake of passing a defense spending bill — the electorate has become very cynical.
That cynicism leads to the election of outsider candidates like Tommy Tuberville, Mo Brooks and yes, Donald Trump.
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