Last week, Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) announced it would no longer be participating in Alabama’s U.S. Senate election.
The SLF argued that since Alabama is a Republican state, Roy Moore could handle the race and would not need help defeating Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee.
SLF’s decision was not a complete surprise. This was the organization that sank millions of dollars in ads to advance Luther Strange’s candidacy — ads that absurdly cast Mo Brooks as a Pelosi toady or Roy Moore as “soft” on guns.
A few days later, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which lined the major thoroughfares in Alabama with billboards advertising President Donald Trump’s support of Strange, followed suit and said it was pulling out as well.
But what if there was something else going on? What if there is a faction of Republicans who wouldn’t mind seeing Moore lose to Jones in December?
It would not be entirely out of the question, given what we learned last year.
During the 2016 presidential election, when it looked all but inevitable Hillary Clinton was going to win, “Never-Trumpers” sought to purge the GOP of Republicans who backed Trump.
He was Goldwater 2.0. He was going to lead Republicans to their biggest presidential defeat in decades, and at the end of the day, they were going to wish they had somebody like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio on the top of their ticket.
“When Donald, should he lose and should he lose as big as he’s going to, there is going to be a scorched earth period of recrimination and Donald Trump will be the target of the recriminations and the people around him will be the target of the recrimination,” Washington, D.C., Beltway “Republican” and The Atlantic contributor David Frum declared on Oct. 28, 2016, a week and a half before the election.
If Alabama’s election were tomorrow, there is no reason to think Roy Moore would lose to Doug Jones. Since Trump was expected to lose, the scenarios are somewhat different, but the psychology is the same.
This contested seat will be up again in 2020.
As it currently stands the U.S. Senate is achieving little under its current leadership. Obamacare remains the law of the land. There is no effort underway to build the much-ballyhooed wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and the U.S. tax code remains complex as ever.
Even if the GOP were to expand its majority in a 2018 midterm that has a favorable map for Republicans, there is no reason to believe the U.S. Senate under Mitch McConnell’s leadership will find religion and go on a bill-passing spree to satisfy Trump and his base.
If Doug Jones were to pull off the upset, it would give the Republicans and their D.C. storefronts the opportunity to tell Alabama “we told you so.”
They will say, “We told you that Roy Moore was not a good candidate. We told you he would embarrass your state. We spent millions of dollars offering you a million reasons that Luther Strange was the only one fit to serve as a U.S. senator from Alabama. But you didn’t listen.”
That’ll give the good ol’ boy network in Alabama and its masters in Washington, D.C., an opportunity in 2020 to handpick the candidate they want running as the Republican against incumbent Doug Jones.
They will say, “We did it your way and it didn’t work. Let’s not make the same mistake this time.”
And that would be justified. Alabama went 62 percent to 34 percent for Trump in the presidential election. It’s been a decade since a Democrat has won a statewide contest in Alabama.
The Republican nominee has every advantage in the Yellowhammer State so an upset victory by Jones in December would be an embarrassment and send shockwaves through the state’s GOP apparatus.
If Alabamians woke up Wednesday, Dec. 13, 2017, to Senator-elect Doug Jones (D-Alabama), expect an immediate change in how things are done in Alabama politics for the foreseeable future.
However, that remains a long-shot scenario.
The power structure that promoted Luther Strange was severely bloodied after the loss in last month’s runoff. They dumped millions of donors’ dollars into a losing cause and appeared to be weak and feckless in its aftermath.
A Moore loss would stymie that erosion of credibility. While it won’t undo the damage done, it would level the playing field and allow for the rise of an I-told-you-so caucus.
Although they couldn’t do so publicly, it is entirely reasonable to think Mitch McConnell, Richard Shelby, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Senate Leadership Fund and others wouldn’t mind seeing Doug Jones pull off that upset in December.
The logic: Take the loss now and live to fight another day in three years.