According to a recent Auburn University at Montgomery poll conducted two weeks ago, 54 percent of registered Alabamian voters surveyed said they plan to vote for Tommy Tuberville, while 42 percent intend to vote for Doug Jones.
According to the same poll, a 12-point deficit is a much better prognosis for Jones than his Democratic presidential counterpart, Joe Biden, who trails President Donald Trump 57 percent to 37 percent in state.
Despite the polling disparity, there are pockets of neighborhoods throughout Alabama with numerous “Doug Jones for Senate” signs in the front yard.
In Mobile, those neighborhoods tend to be along the Old Shell Road corridor, from Spring Hill to downtown Mobile. In Baldwin County, they are scattered along the Eastern Shore.
The same is not true for Tommy Tuberville. His signs tend to be scattered here and there, with no trend of consistency from neighborhood to neighborhood.
It has not gone unnoticed by Tuberville supporters who are antsy, because the outcome of the Roy Moore-Doug Jones matchup of 2017 was a reminder nothing can be taken for granted.
What gives? If Vegas had a line on this Senate race, it would be big for Tuberville, especially in a state where Trump is such a popular figure.
Why are there more Jones signs than Tuberville signs?
For starters, those signs cost money.
According to the latest Federal Election Commission data, the Jones campaign is a much better-funded campaign. Say what you want about the origins of Jones’ fundraising, which is mostly coming from out-of-state sources, but Jones has outraised Tuberville by nearly $11 million.
According to the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets.org website, the latest report has Jones at a total of $14.3 million versus $3.4 million raised for Tuberville.
That money has to go somewhere, and it is apparently being put toward yard signs.
Second, and maybe most important, something changed within the political culture of Alabama. The trendy analogy coming out of the 2017 upset by Jones was of the 2013 Kick Six upset victory for Auburn over Alabama.
A more appropriate analogy is probably “Bo Over the Top” in 1982’s Iron Bowl. Just as Republicans had dominated Alabama politics for a decade at the time of Jones’ upset win, so had the Alabama Crimson Tide under Coach Paul “Bear” Bryant at the time of the 1982 Alabama-Auburn game.
Both Jones’ and Auburn’s wins at the time shook up the cultures of their respective genres.
It is now stylish to display your support for Doug Jones. There is an element of virtue signaling in Alabama’s elite neighborhoods — Birmingham’s Mountain Brook, Montgomery’s Old Cloverdale and Mobile’s Spring Hill.
There is an element among those who want to advertise they are not part of the tobacco-spittin’, tractor-drivin’ proletariat in Alabama’s rural society.
They wish everyone else in the state could catch to their boujee sensibilities.
Despite this fashionable development, the results have yet to come for Alabama Democrats.
The 2018 election cycle under the leadership of then-state party chairwoman Nancy Worley was a missed opportunity as Democrats got trounced up and down the ballot.
This year could be different. Republicans should still dominate, but not like they have in prior U.S. Senate elections. With the turmoil and unrest, 2020 was not going to be Jeff Sessions against a write-in blank.
Instead, a well-funded incumbent Democrat is taking on the former football coach of Auburn University who had a tough primary.
Finally, another reason for the lack of Tommy Tuberville signs has to do with Mobile. Voters in Mobile County, for whatever reason, are reluctant to embrace Tuberville.
In the primary runoff, Jeff Sessions won three counties: Madison, Mobile and Wilcox. Madison County likely went for Sessions because it is an economy reliant on the federal government, and there was the notion Sessions would be a better advocate for those federal dollars.
Wilcox County is Sessions’ home county, where just a little more than 600 Republican voters participated in the runoff election.
And then there is Mobile County. There are probably various reasons for Tuberville’s struggles in Mobile. It could have something to do with Tuberville’s prior association with Auburn University, which did not matter as much in Tuscaloosa County, home of the archrival University of Alabama.
Sessions currently claims Mobile as his hometown, so perhaps there was a hometown advantage for Sessions over Tuberville.
Could it be that people in Mobile are turned off to the possibility of Tuberville becoming a U.S. senator to the extent they are willing to cast a vote for anyone, even the Democrat candidate, Doug Jones? Perhaps.
We will discover the answer to that question on Election Day.
Still, signs do not vote. It isn’t easy at this time to see a path back to the Senate for Jones, even while dominating the sign game.
It is not a total loss for Democrats. Just as the 2017 special election experience, albeit under extraordinary circumstances, showed Democrats it could be done, this could light a path for Democrats in the future.
This election will show where potential Democrat voters are and where Democrats should focus efforts in future elections.
This time, maybe the new party apparatus under the leadership of Chris England will be willing to take advantage of the data, which was something the Democratic Party of the past failed to do.
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