Deval Patrick Heads To Alabama To Campaign In Heated Senate Contest

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Democrat Doug Jones and Republican Roy Moore made their election eve pitches to Alabama voters in settings that evoked the cultural and political divide that’s come to define the two parties in modern America.

With ballots set to be cast in the state’s special election for the Senate starting this morning, Jones held a rally in Birmingham, Alabama’s biggest city. With him were local and national celebrities: retired NBA player and Alabama native Charles Barkley, actress Uzo Aduba and newly elected Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin.

Nearly 200 miles away Moore held a “drain the swamp” themed election night eve event in a barn in Midland City, a small town in rural southeast Alabama. He also was backed by a small team of celebrities, including Breitbart News Executive Chairman Steve Bannon, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, and former Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke.

President Donald Trump wasn’t there, but his presence was felt. Bannon, who had served as Trump’s chief strategist, told the crowd of about 200 Moore supporters that today’s election is “greater than Judge Moore, it’s even greater than the people of Alabama.” At stake, according to Bannon, is whether the Washington establishment and the country’s elites can thwart what voters wanted when they elected Trump.

“It is the Trump miracle versus the nullification project,” he said.

The special election to fill the Senate seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions has turned into a proxy fight for the national parties looking ahead to next November’s elections that will decide control of Congress. It likely will be decided along the urban-rural lines that played a major role in last year’s presidential election and the votes are being cast amid shifting attitudes about sexual misconduct, intense partisanship and deep anti-establishment resentment in parts of the electorate.

The outcome may have more of an impact on Republicans than Democrats. Despite his controversial past as a twice-removed state Supreme Court judge and recent allegations that he had sexual encounters or pursued teenage girls when he was in his 30s, Moore has become a standard-bearer for the populist wing of the Republican Party that is trying to harness the Trump revolution against the establishment GOP.

The controversies continued into Monday night’s rally, as Moore’s wife, Kayla, attempted to respond to allegations that her husband has made comments that were anti-Semitic while blaming “fake news” reporters in the audience.

“Fake news,” she said, “would tell you that we don’t care for Jews. I tell you all this because I’ve seen it all, and I just want to set the record straight while they’re all here.” After a pause that was replayed on cable news today, she added, “One of our attorneys is a Jew. We have very close friends that are Jewish and rabbis and we also fellowship with them.”

Robert Cay, a 73-year-old veteran from Enterprise, Ala., said after the Moore event that it’s about “our existence and the fate of the country.” He said that today’s vote “means that we’re going to help as much as we can to help Trump with his agenda and to keep things moving forward.”

What should have been an easy victory for the Republican candidate in a state that hasn’t sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate in a generation and overwhelmingly backed Trump in 2016 is instead a dead heat that defies easy prediction.

Three polls released Monday illustrated the jumble: an Emerson College poll found Moore up by nine percentage points, a Fox News poll showed Jones up by 10 points and a Monmouth University poll showed the candidates tied with 46 percent each.

Spencer Kimball, pollster at Emerson College, said the difference between his and Fox’s polls came down to estimates about what the electorate will look like today.

“The major difficulty is determining what the turnout will look like,” Kimball said. “Because it’s a special election, does a certain demographic turn out disproportionately than how they normally turn out?”

Kimball said Moore gained ground in the Emerson poll likely thanks to Trump’s strong endorsement. The admission by Beverly Young Nelson, who accused Moore of sexually assaulting her in a car when she was 16 years old, that she added the date and location to a yearbook inscription attributed to Moore, may have also helped the Republican, he said.

Moore latched on to the anti-establishment, populist message that helped Trump win the White House. It helped him win a primary run-off against the candidate backed by Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other senior GOP officeholders.

The same themes — particularly disdain for outside elites — are central in his race against Jones and in his response to the allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct. One recent fundraising email is titled “Defeat the Elite” with pictures of Republicans, Democrats and the logos of national news organizations including CNN and the Washington Post.

Jones initially kept national Democratic Party figures at arms length to avoid feeding resentment among moderate Republicans. In recent weeks the outside help has been pouring in.

Former President Barack Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden recorded phone calls to be blasted out to potential Jones voters. In the weekend leading up to the election, Jones campaigned with prominent black politicians including Representative Terri Sewell, the state’s lone Democrat in Congress, Sen. Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, and former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick. Rep. John Lewis, a Georgia Democrat and icon of the civil rights movement, also has appeared on his behalf.

The Jones campaign announced Monday that it had made 1.2 million phone calls over the last seven weeks and knocked on 300,000 doors, including 80,000 in the past weekend. Jones has held more than 227 events, the campaign said.

Jones has a fundraising advantage over Moore. The Democrat raised $11.5 million and spent $9 million, while Moore raised $5.2 million and spent $4.5 million. Highway 31, a pro-Jones super PAC, spent more than $4.1 million on the race, while America First Action, a super PAC affiliated with Trump, spent nearly $1.1 million to support Moore in the final days of the election.

For Republicans, the Alabama race has exposed the party’s deep divide.

Most Republican senators declined to endorse Moore when he became the Republican nominee, even before he was accused of sexual misconduct by several women. McConnell has said Moore will face an ethics inquiry if he wins. Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona donated $100 to Jones’ campaign and Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, head of the Senate Republican campaign organization, said the committee would “never” support Moore.

Alabama’s senior senator, Republican Richard Shelby, said he didn’t vote for Moore. He wrote in the name of another “distinguished Republican” on the ballot and suggested other voters might do the same. Shelby said the deciding factor was the steady stream of allegations against Moore, particularly the account of a woman who said he initiated sexual contact with her when she was 14.

“That was enough for me,” Shelby said Sunday on CNN. “I said, I can’t vote for Roy Moore.”

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