If Russian Twitterbots are any indication of how things will turn out Dec. 12 when Alabama votes to determine who will replace Luther Strange as our junior United States Senator, then the race may be over.
Republican nominee Roy Moore’s campaign saw its number of Twitter followers jump from around 27,000 to 40,000 over the weekend, and we’re told the vast majority of that increase came from Russia, with love. Or maybe not so much love.
Moore’s campaign immediately distanced itself from the furry-hatted, vodka-swilling bots that joined his team and asked Twitter to bid them dos vedanya — apparently to protect the integrity of their list of social media followers. The campaign claimed its 27,000 followers grew “organically” and banished the bots to digital Siberia. They also blamed Democratic nominee Doug Jones’ campaign for orchestrating the Russian invasion, based mostly upon the assertion that national news reporters were asking about the situation before it had even really become public.
“We highly doubt that reporters across the country spend most of their free time on Sunday breaking away from church, family and football to review the Twitter followers of various candidates across the country,” the campaign said, according to an al.com article. “It is more likely that Doug Jones and Democrat operatives are pulling a political stunt on Twitter and alerting their friends in the media. It’s not surprising that they’d choose the favorite topic of MSNBC and the Fake News outlets — the Russia conspiracy. Democrats can’t win this election on the issues and their desperation is on full display.”
Well OK then. . . .
Jones’ camp wasn’t to be outdone on the Russian front and took the opportunity to compare Moore to Russian President and all-around tough guy Rootin’ Tootin’ Vlad Putin.
“Roy Moore is clearly prepared to tell whatever lies are necessary to distract from recent revelations that he misled the public and charitable donors by arranging for a secret deal to pocket more than $1 million,” Jones campaign spokesman Sebastian Kitchen said in that same article. “While Moore is once again embarrassing the people of Alabama with another disgusting and pathetic lie, Doug spent Monday in North Alabama talking to a woman who is taking care of her 29-year-old son struggling with deadly medical issues, with firefighters, with business leaders, with workers who lost their jobs when a plant closed, and with other Alabamians. Maybe Moore should check with Vladimir Putin, who shares his views on depriving people of their civil rights.”
Nikolai Volkoff couldn’t have delivered a better body slam.
Perhaps the only reasonable thing to be gleaned from an exchange this ridiculous is that a tremendous amount of tension exists in this race, and each side is looking for any kind of edge, which extends to tarring one another with a Russian connection — either directly or spiritually.
The race has pivoted greatly since the good ol’ days of watching the Republican establishment dump shiploads of money into the state in hopes of electing a guy whose ethical misdeeds were political herpes. Now we have a guy whose ethical issues make him at least a political yeast infection or, at worst, a political cancer, versus a big-D Democrat.
Moore versus Jones is a turnoff for Republicans disappointed to have been left to choose between Luther and Roy, but it has Democrats as fired up as they’ve had any right to be in a quarter of a century. Just Google the men’s names and articles from all the elite East Coast publications will emerge that examine the sliver of hope Democrats (finally) have in this race. Doug Jones is a quality candidate and Roy Moore is a terrible embarrassment waiting to happen, they all point out.
But somewhere in every article there’s the caveat — it IS Alabama and we’d probably elect a dead possum to Congress before a Democrat. (That is a false premise, by the way. No dead Republican possums have made it out of the primaries in years.)
So Jones has the narrowest of lines to walk. He can’t seem too liberal and probably shouldn’t get too personal in his criticism of Moore. But at the same time he has to fire up his base and also raise the money needed without jumping into the same Washington-polluted swamp water Luther Strange tried to make his personal swimming hole.
In other words, Jones needs some Washington money, but if he has Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Bill Clinton barnstorm the state on his behalf he’s likely to completely turn off that most frightened rabbit of Alabama voters — the Republican conservative thinking of crossing party lines and voting for a Democrat. It’s the kind of thing that might get you thrown out of the Thanksgiving dinner in many homes across the state.
Newsflash: Alabama is a deeply red state, and many people here spit the world “liberal” out like it’s a mouthful of spoiled milk. But there are a lot of people who do not like Roy Moore at all. They do not like him on a boat, they do not like him with a goat. They do not like him here or there, they do not like him anywhere.
Jones has a respectable chance to gather thousands and thousands of crossover votes from those mysterious Strange supporters, who had to be a fairly malleable group in the first place to brush past Big Luther’s do-si-do with the Luv Guv. But he can’t make any sudden moves. One high-five with Obama could be all it takes to screw him.
Moore has generally seemed to have a cap during his many runs for public office. He has a fierce following, but doesn’t appear to have the ability to translate that into broader support that appeals to moderates. Perhaps it’s due to his immoderate views.
But Jones’ strong support for abortion rights and ties to Bill Clinton won’t help him get voters he wouldn’t have gotten already. Alabama was already smacked over the head with Washington elites during the Republican primary, so loading up the tie-dyed school bus full of everyone’s favorite liberal heroes and driving them to ‘Bama isn’t likely to work any better for Jones than it did for Big Luther.
Moore’s personal finances are gaining steam as an issue in this race and he seems to be melting a bit under the glare of the cameras. Jones just watched one Republican crash and burn due to ethical problems, and Moore’s personal payments from his charity might provide a sequel disaster.
That a Democrat would ever even be talking about winning a Senate race in Alabama is a direct result of Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s unbelievable meddling in the primaries. The best Mitch can hope for now is to have to deal with Senator Roy Moore.
But the door is open for Jones — even if only a crack — and to pull the upset he’s going to have to operate with the steely, single-minded determination of a Russian Twitterbot.