Doug Jones remains the underdog in right-wing, evangelical Alabama — but voters revolted by the allegations against his opponent Roy Moore are starting to give Jones a second look.
As soon as the Washington Post published allegations that Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore sexually preyed on four teenage girls 40 years ago, Alabama Republican officials began defiantly circling the wagons, blaming the victims, insisting there is nothing wrong with pedophilia, and even comparing Moore’s advances on a 14-year-old girl to Joseph and the Virgin Mary.
But according to a new poll, voters in Alabama have far more mixed feelings, to the point that some of them are considering the heretofore unthinkable — throwing their support to Democratic candidate Doug Jones.
The new Opinion-Savvy/Decision Desk HQ poll finds the two candidates are virtually tied, with Moore at 46.4 percent and Jones at 46.0 percent — with over 82 percent of respondents saying they were aware of the allegations that Moore is a pedophile.
Moreover, the poll finds Jones leading 43.6 percent to 41.3 percent when voters are given the third option of writing in incumbent Senate appointee and defeated Moore primary opponent Luther Strange.
The poll divides sharply along religious lines, with evangelicals backing Moore by 20 points and non-evangelicals backing Jones by 29 points.
The seat was previously held by unapologetic racist Jeff Sessions, and Democrats never had any expectation this race would be close at all. And while this poll is far above expectations, there are still numerous factors working against Jones.
Alabama communities are overwhelmingly insular and far right, and many subscribe to authoritarian sects of Christianity, meaning Moore’s Dominionist rhetoric resonates with them. Moreover, registered Republicans outnumber Democrats in the state 2 to 1, so strong Democratic turnout would not be enough — a large percentage of GOP voters would have to go for Jones. This poll shows that so far, only 20 percent of Republicans are even considering that, so Moore is still the favorite to win in December.
However, if anyone is capable of pulling off an upset, it is Jones.
A champion of civil rights, Jones was a U.S. Attorney in Bill Clinton’s Justice Department, where he oversaw the prosecution of the Klansmen behind the 1964 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, which killed four young Black girls. His fight to win justice for murdered children is the perfect foil to Moore’s own heinous acts against teenage girls.
The Alabama Senate race is shaping up to be far more interesting — and close — than any reasonable person would have guessed. And with a month to go, there may well be more surprises around the corner.