Speed Reads

alabama special election

Alabama poised for sizzling Senate showdown between Trump-backed Luther Strange and Bannon-backed Roy Moore

Alabama is poised to vote Tuesday in a Republican runoff election between Senate candidates Luther Strange, the state's incumbent junior senator who is endorsed by President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore, a controversial conservative backed by Trump loyalists like Stephen Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Sarah Palin. "It's certainly a critical national race," political science professor Cal Jillson told Al.com. "All eyes will turn to Alabama over the next week."

RealClearPolitics' average of polls between Sept. 16 and 23 shows Moore with a strong lead going into Tuesday: 51.4 percent of voters lean Moore while just 42.6 percent lean Strange. "There are those who think that the potential success of Moore's candidacy could be a jumping off point for insurgent challengers to sitting GOP senators in 2018," explained Geoffrey Skelley, the associate editor of the University of Virginia Center for Politics' Sabato's Crystal Ball. Skelley added that while "a Moore win will galvanize insurgent forces in the GOP … it wouldn't necessarily guarantee the start of something bigger."

The race has been expensive and grueling, with Trump, who is popular in Alabama, even rallying for Strange in Huntsville on Friday. Still, there is grave concern in Washington that Moore will win nevertheless: "With Strange on the ropes and time running out, the party has launched a coordinated, scorched-earth campaign to take down Moore," Politico writes. "The sheer breadth of the anti-Moore campaign has stunned Alabama's political class: It includes non-stop TV ads, a meticulously crafted get-out-the-vote effort, and detailed, oppo-research-filled debate prep sessions for Strange."

The winner of the run off election will face a Democratic challenger on Dec. 12, but is expected to easily win in the deeply conservative state. On Tuesday, just 12 percent of the state's 3.3 million registered voters are expected to cast a vote between Moore and Strange, Al.com reports.