Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Katie Britt had an impressive $2.2 million first quarter fundraising haul, far exceeding any of her already declared opponents for the May 24, 2022 primary election.
Britt has a loyal cult-like base of support for a newcomer to electoral politics, some of which are already sporting Katie Britt campaign signs around the state from Point Clear to Monte Sano.
Meanwhile, Congressman Mo Brooks remains the frontrunner. Though it is unlikely he still maintains a 50-point lead over his opponent, he is the prohibitive favorite and might walk away without a runoff if the election were held tomorrow.
However, if history is any indicator, the contest should continue to tighten. Where might Britt pick up ground?
For those of you that are not keeping track of a contest that is nearly a year away, Brooks, Britt, former U.S. ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard and Prattville businesswoman Jessica Taylor make up the Republican field for 2022.
While it is unclear what lanes Blanchard and Taylor will occupy, Brooks is the so-called outside candidate, and Britt is the establishment candidate.
In U.S. Senate races, the Republican establishment candidate has not fared all that well in recent years.
In 2017, Luther Strange was the establishment guy. You could not get any more country club blueblood Rockefeller Republican than Luther Strange. If you looked up “Alabama establishment Republican” in the dictionary, there would be a picture of Luther Strange.
Senator Richard Shelby supported Strange and a host of other high-ranking GOP dignitaries, including then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
In the end, they bet on the wrong horse. Strange had enough support to win his way into a runoff against Roy Moore. But Moore defeated Strange in the runoff, and then we know how that ended for Moore.
Had the state’s establishment not been so committed to Luther Strange initially, there would have been other serious candidates besides Roy Moore and Mo Brooks, and that might have been the difference in Republicans stopping Doug Jones from becoming a U.S. Senator.
In 2020, Tommy Tuberville defeated Jeff Sessions. Tuberville was thought to be the outsider because of his newcomer status. Sessions was considered the establishment pick given he had Shelby’s backing, telling people for months before Sessions announced that Sessions would clear the field if he entered the race.
Shelby was wrong again.
Katie Britt is Richard Shelby’s handpicked choice to succeed him when his long and distinguished career finally ends at the beginning of 2023.
He is not alone. The business and agriculture communities once referred to as the Big Mules and Planters would like to see that, as well.
Alabama has a long history of electing populist and outsider candidates. Populism, which is not an ideology, is a guiding influence in Republican Party politics throughout the country.
There is a sentiment that America’s elite institutions have failed us, and that includes corporate America and the current political class, both of which Britt’s campaign is thought to be aligned with by likely Republican primary voters. Suppose you are one of those who don’t want U.S. Senator-elect Mo Brooks. In that case, you better hope your candidate has a better strategy than the usual nods to “Christian conservative Alabama values.”
For now, Brooks is winning in both categories of a stylistic approach and the populist appeal of the time. Oh yeah, he also has the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, who has already shown a willingness to take shots at Britt.
There are many headwinds for the Britt campaign to overcome, and there is a lot on the line for the business community.
If they hit a three-election losing streak, then with Strange, Sessions, and possibly Britt, then where do they go from there? Unless you are in the wrong political party of the era, historically winning a U.S. Senate election in Alabama means you’re going to be there for a while.
Shelby will have been in Congress for 44 years and in the Senate for 36. Jeff Sessions served for 20 years. Howell Heflin served for 18 years. John Sparkman served 33 years. Lister Hill served 14 years.
A few others among those not listed did not serve in the U.S. Senate as long. However, the point is it becomes challenging in Alabama to upset an incumbent in a primary, even with the deep pockets of Alabama’s business and agriculture communities.
Is there any reason to think Katie Britt’s 2022 U.S. Senate campaign will be different than Luther Strange in 2017, except she does not have the Trump endorsement?
In 2006, Jim Folsom, Jr. beat Strange in a lieutenant gubernatorial election, partially based on name identification and a TV spot contrasting himself as a gun-toting country boy dove hunter and Strange as a tennis-playing Mountain Brook country clubber.
Ever since then, candidates have been wearing the camouflage to rekindle that magic, including Britt.
Voters in Alabama have a finely tuned BS meter. A phony is obvious to spot. They want Bo and Luke Duke and not Coy and Vance Duke.
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