I can’t say I was ever much of a fan of those TV shows like “Fear Factor,” where you have to make out with a tarantula, eat a live squid or get buried in a pile of cockroaches. I don’t have an especially weak stomach, but that stuff was hard to watch.
The premise was more or less, “How badly do you want to win?” “What are you willing to do to win the prize money?” “Would you pour worms into your underwear?” Sure. “Let a rattlesnake slither across your stomach?” Yeah, why not? “Eat a spoonful of hot mayonnaise?” OK, I’m out!
The current race to be Alabama’s junior U.S. Senator is reminiscent of those types of shows. At least a couple of the candidates have taken a how-far-will-you-go approach to a contest that’s hard to watch in some ways, but must-see-TV in others.
So far limited polling data suggests Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks and current stand-in Sen. Luther Strange lead the pack. Who’s in first place depends upon which poll you’re reading. Most candidates in the race appear to just be wasting time, but at least a couple raised more than $200,000 in donations so it’s hard to write them off completely.
Still, the smart money is on the “Big Three.” They have the money and name recognition that helps win a statewide campaign, although some might argue their name recognition comes more from “unpositive” activities than statewide admiration.
By this time any Alabama voter who has paid at least a modicum of attention to the race should have a basic knowledge of all three of these somewhat flawed candidates.
Strange — “Big Luther,” in case you might for a moment not notice he’s super tall — has probably made the most of his time in the spotlight. He weaseled into his current position as the incumbent senator through means many Alabamians find appalling. To wit, while Luv Guv Robert Bentley was being investigated by the State Attorney General’s Office, Strange — who was at that very moment THE actual attorney general — met with Bentley alone to seek appointment to the U.S. Senate.
Big Luther spends a lot of time trying to keep from answering questions about ethics and the legality of what he did and instead focuses on letting you know he’s willing to let Donald Trump stick his right hand up where the sun don’t shine and operate him like a 7-foot-tall puppet. Strange was also a D.C. lobbyist for 10 years, which doesn’t make him more lovable.
Rep. Brooks is in a very strange place these days. During the presidential primaries he had some very critical things to say about Trump, things the Strange campaign uses daily to pummel him. That may hurt with the base, but Brooks does earn points from Trump haters because he was not part of the love fest.
However, Brooks has reversed course on the Trump bashing and is now engaged in a game with Strange over who loves President Trump the most. The first one to get a tramp-stamp Trump tattoo wins! (Why do I feel like there’s a reasonable chance that will happen?)
In the meantime, Moore has stayed rather aloof from the gutter fighting between Strange and Brooks. Running a quiet campaign may be the way to go for Moore since so much of his political life has been defined by large, seemingly idealistic actions that placed him at odds with federal laws and rulings and made him the darling of the Christian right. Being seen as “anti-Fed” isn’t necessarily a bad thing in Alabama, but Moore’s refusal to remove the “The Ten Commandments” statue from the state Supreme Court and his fight against the federal same-sex marriage rulings puts him in Genghis Khan territory as far as more liberal voters are concerned.
This week Moore was taunting the competition, saying essentially they’re all playing for second place in the Aug. 15 primary. Whether that’s the case of not, both Brooks and Strange seem to be wildly flailing for attention. It’s easier for BL because he has Washington money flooding into Alabama to buy airtime, and his buddies in D.C. are also getting him booked on just about every news show Fox has.
Brooks went big last week by launching a commercial touting his Second Amendment credentials by way of the June rifle attack on Republican congressmen as they practiced for the annual baseball game. Brooks was there when James Hodgkinson opened fire on lawmakers, wounding Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others. Brooks used his belt as a tourniquet to help save Scalise, who was critically injured after being shot in the hip.
Brooks’ latest ad starts with the sounds of gunfire from that day and people yelling. It mentions how he helped Scalise, then pivots to a member of the “liberal media” immediately asking if the shooting changed his mind about gun control. Brooks quickly said he’s a supporter of the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms, and seeing his favorite belt ruined would not cause him to waver.
Naturally the use of the shooting as a campaign commercial drew some pretty dim reviews, including from Scalise’s camp. Maybe since nobody was killed there’s a lower threshold here? Was it too soon? Is there actually a waiting period on using something like this to gain higher office?
Let’s face it, as a congressman there aren’t a whole lot of opportunities to use your belt as a tourniquet. On top of that, the ambulances had barely hauled the wounded away before some idiot reporter was taped asking a dumb political question of people who were just shot at. It’s all campaign commercial gold!
Some have said Brooks’ commercial smacks of rank opportunism — which it does — but opportunism is what this special election is all about. We wouldn’t be here without it.
Jeff Sessions saw a chance to be U.S. Attorney General and jumped at it. Robert Bentley saw a chance to manipulate his criminal investigation and he took it. Luther Strange saw a chance to be made senator without a campaign, and he took it. Brooks and Moore both know this opportunity won’t likely come around anytime soon.
It’s all about taking advantage of this once-in-20-years opportunity.
The question for everyone in this massive field of candidates is “What are you willing to do be Alabama’s next U.S. Senator?” I think we’re beginning to see the answer to that may well be “Anything short of eating hot mayonnaise.” want it