The Battle of Alabama: Mitch McConnell Influence Test Comes Up Tuesday

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 4: GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., left, speaks with a supporter after the U.S. Senate candidate forum held by the Shelby County Republican Party in Pelham, Ala., on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017. Sen. Strange is running in the special election to fill …
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Washington, D.C.

The question as to whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will maintain a rock solid grip on power over his Senate GOP conference for years to come will face voters in a deep red state in Alabama on Tuesday, as the McConnell-backed appointment-created incumbent Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) faces the serious possibility of losing his election before he even gets to a runoff.

Recent polling data from Alabama suggests that the frontrunner ahead of a runoff in September for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions is former Alabama Supreme Court chief Justice Roy Moore. Battling it out for second place, and a spot in the runoff with Moore, are both Strange and Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL).

Brooks, a member of the House Freedom Caucus and staunch ally of President Trump, and Moore have both been the subject of vicious attack ads from a McConnell-aligned organization called Senate Leadership Fund. Senate Leadership Fund has spent nearly $10 million backing Strange already. McConnell is supporting Strange since he is the only candidate who has not called for McConnell to step down as Senate Majority Leader over McConnell’s failure to deliver on President Donald Trump’s agenda.

The polling data that has come out over the past several days suggests Strange and Brooks are neck-and-neck inside the margin of error in the final days, with Strange getting a slight edge. The signs from this essential lack of a change in polling data from a couple weeks ago are that the attack ads from Senate Leadership Fund on Brooks especially, but also against Moore, are not working — and that a questionable endorsement by Trump of Strange has had little to no effect either.

“There are a number of factors that are involved,” Brooks said in an appearance on Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM Patriot Channel 125 this weekend.

First and foremost, I’ve got a spotless ethics record having served as a Madison County District Attorney, a legislator, a county commissioner and a United States Congressman. That’s a big part of it. Ethics is a big issue in this race. The incumbent, Luther Strange, engaged in unethical conduct when he as the Attorney General of Alabama held an investigation of the governor, a criminal investigation of the governor, over the governor’s head while seeking a United States Senate seat. So, now Alabama taxpayers are having to fork out $15 million for a special election because of the unethical way in which Luther Strange obtained this Senate seat in the first instance. So that’s a big part of it.

Another big part of it is I have a reputation that is unfortunately strong enough to be able to withstand the scorched earth carpet-bombing tactics of Mitch McConnell and Luther Strange, where time after time they have lied about me and lied about my record. Fortunately, in North Alabama where people know me well, that has backfired badly on Luther Strange. We’re well ahead in the polls among people who know me well — probably outpolling Luther Strange about three to one in the north part of the state where I have an established reputation as a conservative, a principled conservative who stands first for what is in the best interest of America come hell or high water. That’s what I do.


The third reason Brooks believes he has a strong shot to slip past Strange into the runoff is that Strange backs McConnell’s efforts to empower the Democrats with a 60-vote threshold in the U.S. Senate to pass major legislation. Brooks, and many other conservatives including President Trump, want to drop that threshold down to a simple majority. McConnell and Strange do not.

“And then the third factor is something you discussed when you were speaking to Judge Roy Moore about — and that is the 60-vote rule in the United States Senate. President Trump has finally figured out that as long as that 60-vote rule is there, his legislative agenda is dead — no chance to have anything substantive pass that addresses the major issues of this country. I have long been opposed to the 60-vote rule and I think it ought to be majority rule in the Senate since I don’t think it makes any sense to empower Chuck Schumer and the Democrats to block everything that we try to do. That’s craziness. Why even bother having elections if the majority can’t rule?”

As Brooks mentioned, Moore — currently the frontrunner heading into the Tuesday primary who is essentially guaranteed a spot in the runoff in September against either Brooks or Strange — also appeared on Breitbart News Saturday on SiriusXM Patriot Channel 125 this weekend.

“This is a very, very, very important election for the nation as well as for the people of Alabama,” Moore said in his appearance. “

It’s a prelude to the upcoming Senate elections in 2018 in the rest of the states because this is a special election and it comes first by law in our state. If we do not stop the control out of Washington of who gets to Washington, we’re never going to change this country. Both the House and Senate have funds built just to retain their incumbents. This is not an incumbent but an appointee, but they still want to retain him. If we don’t change this system and start realizing that Mitch McConnell and other people can’t control the states and who they send as a Senator — that’s what they’re trying to do in Alabama, and actually, the people of Alabama see through it. That’s why I’m in the lead, and have been since the beginning and will be at the end. They do not want people in Washington controlling who they send to the United States Senate. I would ask the people to get out the vote, to get out to vote for me on August 15, and help start a return to progress in this country and stop this stagnation as I call it in Washington. They don’t want to do anything. They’re hiding behind Senate rules.


Moore said he also supports changing the Senate rules to help President Trump legislatively pass his agenda.

“Well, actually, McConnell is opposing the Constitution because the founders of the Constitutions did not set up a super-majority rule for voting for bills in the United States Congress and United States Senate,” Moore said. “It’s a simple majority. They have super majorities in 10 other instances in the Constitution and those are very important instances like expelling a member, overriding a veto, passing a constitutional amendment, removing somebody on Senate removal after they’ve been impeached. But there’s no super majority rule on legislation, and when we put a super majority rule in there, that’s unconstitutional and somebody should do something about it.”

It is worth noting that despite all his bluster about being pro-Trump, Strange and his campaign refused to appear on Breitbart News Saturday this weekend. He is refusing to appear in front of Trump-supporting audiences everywhere and has not been willing to publicly back the president and his agenda when it comes down to whether someone supports McConnell or supports Trump.

It remains to be seen what will happen on Tuesday in Alabama, but if the McConnell-backed Strange does make it to the runoff and Brooks does not, then Alabamians will have another chance to defeat the Washington establishment lining up against the president by getting behind Moore in September in the runoff election a little more than a month later than Tuesday. But, more importantly, if the voters of Alabama in Tuesday’s primary send Strange packing and Brooks and Moore into the runoff it would be a massive defeat for McConnell—and a major win for the president’s agenda even if Trump did endorse Strange. It would also set up other Senate races and candidates nationwide to start falling in line like dominoes against McConnell and his anti-Trump pro-Schumer Senate rules in the critical midterm elections.