While everyone inside the Beltway is obsessed with impeachment and everyone inside the Hank Aaron Loop is gearing up for an annexation debate, Politico and The Washington Post reported earlier this week former U.S. Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions was “strongly considering” a run for his old Senate seat.
A Mobilian I know received a call just last week from a pollster asking his thoughts on Sessions and the other candidates and if the president’s comments affected his feelings on Sessions. This certainly makes it seem like somebody is considerin’ somethin’!
His consideration of this will not only have to be “strong” but also quick, as the deadline to qualify for the ballot is Nov. 8.
Sessions would join a crowded Republican primary field, with U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, Secretary of State John Merrill, State Rep. Arnold Mooney, former Chief Justice Roy Moore and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, as well as other lesser-known Republican candidates.
The winner of the primary will face current U.S. Senator Doug Jones, who beat an embattled Moore in a special election to fill Sessions’ seat, but is considered to hold the most vulnerable Democratic seat in the Senate for reasons obvious to everyone who lives here. Most polls show Tuberville leading at this point, while Byrne has raised the most money.
Though Sessions was the first Republican Senator to support then-candidate Donald Trump in early 2016, he very publicly lost favor after Trump was elected, and Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation. He was ultimately forced out by Trump last November after months of abuse by the Insulter-in-Chief, who mocked his accent, intelligence and appearance, among other things, and who, of course, placed the blame for all of his own woes squarely on the shoulders of Sessions.
And Trump still disparages Sessions. Earlier this month, Trump told former adviser Sebastian Gorka in an interview published in The Daily Caller: “You look at what’s happening over at the Justice Department, now we have a great attorney general. Whereas before that, with Jeff Sessions, it was a disaster. Just a total disaster. He was an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama.”
Of course, if Sessions were to enter the race, no one in their right mind believes this abuse would stop — making some of us wonder if Sessions is a masochist or if he has some sort of battered politician syndrome?
What normal person could endure that kind of public abuse and humiliation for five more seconds, much less five more months? And you know if he enters the race it will only get worse.
But even though most Republican movers and shakers recognize the problems Trump could cause for Sessions should he run, many believe he would still be an automatic frontrunner. Sen. Richard Shelby, the elder Republican statesman of Alabama, all but encouraged a run back in June.
“I think if he ran, he would be a formidable candidate. Formidable. I’ve not encouraged him to run, but he’s a friend, and if he ran, I think he’d probably clear the field,” Shelby said.
Many have argued Alabamians did not put a lot of stock in Trump’s endorsement of Luther Strange, and that’s true, but the appearance of impropriety between Strange and former Gov. Robert Bentley had a lot more to do with that. But it does show even Trump supporters aren’t just going to blindly do what the president says.
Others say Sessions should run on his record as one of the only Republicans who was actually doing something to enact the president’s agenda.
In a Frontline documentary that aired earlier this month on the Trump/Sessions/Stephen Miller “zero tolerance” immigration policy, even conservative commentator Ann Coulter joked, “So it was really fun to watch Trump humiliating Sessions every day on Twitter, the one guy keeping your promises.”
So maybe there is a lane somewhere in there, along with automatic name recognition.
But would he clear the field?
Roy Moore definitely doesn’t have a shot, even though the national media will be deeply disappointed. And Mooney probably doesn’t either. Sessions would definitely give Byrne and Merrill the biggest headaches, but I don’t think he clears Tuberville at this point. The coach has too much star power across the state already, and people just seem to really respond to him as a candidate.
Someone told me Tuberville stopped by Griffith Shell a few months ago, and he was greeted like a member of The Beatles (and maybe even better than Ringo) by all the random customers who gathered around him and, yes, even by those who scream “Roll Tide.”
And this is in South Alabama, where our hometown guy Byrne should have a commanding lead. And a place where we should all really want a senator from South Alabama.
But Byrne’s not-so-Oscar-worthy performance as a born-again Extreme Right Winger and Trump Fanboy (which absolutely no one with more than two brain cells buys) has turned off a lot of people. Not just the 20 or so moderates who live here, but even hardcore Trumpers. Because if there is one thing they hate as much as the “fake news” and the “deep state,” it’s a phony.
That’s why they voted for Trump — because they were sick of politicians who would say or do anything to get elected. But then Byrne turns himself into exactly that? It makes no sense to me at all, though I’m sure some slick (probably out-of-state) political consultant convinced Byrne otherwise. As the president would say, or rather tweet, “Sad!”
Who knows? We do live in strange times. And I don’t really know what to think anymore. If you would have told me a Democrat would win the special election for this seat right after Sessions left, I would have just laughed and laughed and then laughed some more.
But I do like Sessions’ chances of at least making it to the runoff. He has as much money as Byrne does already and, if nothing else, the man has certainly proved he can take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. If Republican voters here want a senator from South Alabama, maybe they too should “strongly consider” Sessions may just be their best chance.
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