With a little less than two years to go until Alabamians go to the polls to cast a vote for U.S. Senate, speculation is rampant as to who might run against Sen. Doug Jones (D-Mountain Brook) on the Republican ticket.
Jones is thought to be vulnerable given the circumstances behind his 2017 special-election victory over Roy Moore. His apparent weaknesses have lent themselves to a wide-open realm of possibilities for the 2020 election.
Beyond his intrinsic vulnerabilities, the incumbent will likely have an even tougher re-election given that the 2020 ballot will likely have President Donald Trump at the top. Trump remains popular in Alabama.
Looking ahead, here are your way-too-early odds for that 2020 election — for entertainment purposes only, of course.
Bradley Byrne (9/2) — Alabama’s 1st Congressional District representative started running for this seat on Dec. 13, 2017, the day after Doug Jones pulled off his upset victory.
Alabamians know who he is. He had his get-acquainted campaign in 2010 with his loss to Robert Bentley in the GOP gubernatorial runoff.
Byrne is also a good fundraiser. He will be able to raise a lot of money, but Byrne is a South Alabama candidate, which historically makes it a little bit tougher to win statewide.
Del Marsh (5/1) — People in Mobile are probably unfamiliar with the Anniston Republican representing Alabama’s 12th Senate District. Marsh has served as the pro tem of the state senate since 2010.
In 2017, Marsh hinted at a run but was warned off by the Luther Strange-Richard Shelby machine. Consultants and others in the business of elections were warned if they accepted Marsh’s business in a bid to interfere with Strange’s rightful spot in the U.S. Senate, they would be blackballed in the future.
To win the Republican nod, Marsh will have to expand his name ID beyond Calhoun County and the Montgomery bubble.
Doug Jones (6/1) – He is the incumbent, even if he is a Democrat. People and organizations will give money to an incumbent candidate’s campaign just for being an incumbent.
It is still a long shot for Jones. He’s high up on this list of 2020 hopefuls because he will not have to endure a competitive primary. He also has the benefit of facing a candidate who is the last man standing following a circular firing squad of Republican hopefuls.
If there was one glimmer of hope for Jones coming out of this year’s general election, it’s that the suburban voter is drifting Democrat. Democrats made their most significant gains in Shelby and Madison counties in this past election.
Gary Palmer (11/1) — The congressman for Alabama’s 6th Congressional District was recently elected by his colleagues to chair the House Republican Policy Committee. The former head of the Alabama Policy Institute is well-liked and a formidable fundraiser. However, he faces many headwinds, especially regarding statewide name ID. Look for him in 2022 if Shelby retires.
Robert Aderholt (16/1) — The longtime congressman for Alabama’s 4th Congressional District could make things interesting. He represents one of the most heavily GOP districts in the country. It’s difficult, however, to see Aderholt giving up his seniority in the U.S. House to make a longshot run at the U.S. Senate.
Tommy Battle (19/1) — Huntsville’s mayor is a rising star in the GOP, but this race probably isn’t his best shot. His get-acquainted race this year for the Republican gubernatorial nod was also on the lackluster side. He still needs to expand his name ID beyond the Tennessee Valley to be a more serious threat.
Jim Zeigler (19/1) — Alabama’s state auditor is 2-0 in statewide general elections. Shorty Price he is not.
Zeigler is hinting at a run. Even though he isn’t among the top contenders, he could influence the outcome by taking votes away from another, more viable candidate.
Will Ainsworth (24/1) — He’s loud and bald. He also can raise money. It’s a little early for this newcomer to the state scene to wage another statewide campaign. Look for him in 2022.
John Merrill (24/1) — Like Ainsworth, Merrill is another rising star in Republican ranks and a conservative media darling. We’re a cycle or two away from Merrill being a threat, but he has the qualities of being a solid retail politician at a statewide level.
Roy Moore (49/1) — You can’t continue to dine on martyrdom without throwing yourself in front of a speeding train now and then. There may be some Democrats who wouldn’t mind seeing a Roy Moore re-emergence, but don’t expect the adults in the ALGOP to make this mistake again.
Jeff Sessions (unknown) — Should Jeff Sessions announce he is seeking his old U.S. Senate seat, wipe the slate clean of all names except for incumbent Doug Jones.
If elected, it’s not a given he will get his seniority back. And why would he want to go back to being a mid-bencher in the U.S. Senate after being the nation’s top law enforcement official?
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell never seemed to give him the respect he was due given his seniority, evidenced by his lack of committee chairmanships.
Field (5/1) — This far away, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities for another name to emerge. There are candidates who, if they announced, should be taken seriously. They include Reps. Mo Brooks, Martha Roby, Mike Rogers, 2017 U.S. Senate hopeful former State Sen. Trip Pittman and Jimmy “Yella Fella” Rane.
Expect some of those candidates to emerge in 2022 if Shelby does not seek re-election. It isn’t a foregone conclusion that he won’t, especially if Republicans hold the U.S. Senate. He’ll have two more years chairing the Senate Appropriations Committee, a lifelong ambition of his.