If you have ever attended a sporting event at a packed stadium, you’ll know what I am talking about.
As goes the ebb and flow of a game, there are emotional highs and lows, and sometimes when a hometown crowd is involved, you can feel it.
For example, the home crowd can be ginned up ahead of kickoff at a football game with the correct elements. You can sense the enthusiasm. That emotion feeds off of itself and sometimes will carry over onto the field of play.
The same is true when the emotion fades, and that lack of emotion can be contagious.
To a much lesser extent, that same phenomenon is true with politics, and it is true in this U.S. Senate race.
Of the declared candidates, two set themselves apart. They separated themselves from the rest of the field — U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks and former Business Council of Alabama head Katie Boyd Britt.
The Britt campaign and its allies did something very clever earlier this month. One day, they put out an internal poll declaring Katie Britt as the leader. Their internals showed Britt up 31 percent to Brooks’ 30 percent, with upstart Mike Durant at 12 percent and Jessica Taylor at 7 percent.
Typically, internal polls are met with skepticism.
“You can make a poll say whatever you want it to say as long as you pose the question in a certain way and sample the right people.”
That was the immediate response from the Brooks campaign.
Two days later, a pro-Britt PAC put out another poll commissioned by a reputable polling group, Cygnal.
It had Britt up 24 percent-22 percent over Brooks, with Durant at 9 percent and Taylor and Blanchard tied at 1 percent.
“Zowie wowie! Britt is for real, y’all,” declared Britt supporters. “Two polls back-to-back are not outliers.”
There was still cause to be skeptical, but another poll wound up in the public view. This is something you don’t typically see — polling conducted on behalf of the Alabama House Republican Caucus leaked to the media.
This poll had Mo Brooks up 28 percent over 25 percent for Katie Britt. That’s not showing Britt in the lead, but it showed the race to be much closer than the 40-50 points some polling had indicated earlier this year in the head-to-head Brooks-Britt match-up.
It likely means Brooks will not avoid a runoff in his 2022 U.S. Senate run, and things are now somewhat complicated for the Brooks campaign.
On the eve of the holiday season, we are, and now Alabama GOP voters have options. As recently as two months ago, most thought it was a foregone conclusion Mo Brooks would be the Republican nominee.
He was former President Donald Trump’s guy. He had the most name ID. Sure, Britt had Shelby backing her, but is that something to brag about as Republicans are fed up with Washington, D.C., controlled by a Democrat-led House and Senate and Joe Biden in the White House? Do you want the guy who had been a fixture on Capitol Hill going back to the late 1970s as your star endorsement?
Regardless, voters have options. They are taking a second look at the race now that it is no longer a given Mo Brooks will be the Republican nominee.
Who Is Katie Britt? Do you mean I have options?
Not all will jump ship, but it inevitably will be a net gain for Britt’s effort.
That’s where the public can feel the palpable shift in momentum. You can’t necessarily describe or precisely define it, but you know it when it is there.
Bigger crowds are showing up at Britt events. Her name comes up more in conversation. The statewide billboard is also helping.
How many of you don’t know who Alexander Shunnarah is?
For the Brooks campaign, we keep waiting for the counterpunch.
It’s bound to come, right? A statement from Trump, a poll showing a blowout in the other direction, a vicious Club for Growth attack ad against Britt? Something, anything, right?
So far, very little has come from Brooks.
All of this matters right now because it all but ensures Republicans will have overtime beyond the May 24, 2022 Republican primary 30 days later.
There will be a mad dash to June 21, 2022. Alabama voters did not have the opportunity to experience that flash campaign in 2020 in the race between Tommy Tuberville and Jeff Sessions because of COVID.
However, by July, you will have been inundated with what is likely to be the spectacle of the circular firing squad of one-party politics.
It could get worse for the Brooks effort before it gets better. Last week, the aforementioned Richard Shelby pledged $5 million to Britt’s effort.
Folks, an extra $5 million in a campaign in Alabama can be effective if used properly.
Some of you may think we have seen this playbook before. Luther Strange had all the cash, but he still lost to Roy Moore.
Britt is proving to be a better retail politician and will likely improve even more as the campaign continues. Strange was not much of a retail politician and did not even try if it was more than an hour away from his Mountain Brook home.
She has a lot of things going for her, but if you’re asking for me to handicap the race, Brooks is still the favorite to be the Republican nominee and the next U.S. Senator from this state.
It’s halftime, and the teams are headed to the locker room to celebrate the holidays, with Brooks holding the advantage. But at least now, it is interesting.
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