Two Takeaways About GOP Voters from the Senate Primary in Alabama Last Week

In terms of who GOP voters are latching onto, past campaign tactics look to still be working!



It’s no secret that there’s a growing rift within the Republican Party at the moment. With Donald Trump and Senate Republicans placing blame at each other’s feet for the lack of legislative progress thus far, it can be hard to suss out what Republican voters currently think of the entire situation. While various surveys have shown a large number of Americans to be disappointed with the Trump administration thus far, but when you compare those views to Republican voters, his approval rating with them remains relatively high. That’s why last Tuesday’s GOP Senate Primary in Alabama was so intriguing.           


Alabama’s GOP Senate Primary was focused on two very different GOP candidates; the GOP Establishment’s favorite Luther Savage and self-proclaimed political outsider Roy Moore. Even though the primary race had ended with neither one breaking the 50% majority to avoid a run-off vote between both candidates next month, there’s still enough here to dissect to get a better idea of the Republican mindset as we enter the 2018 Midterm Elections.



Takeaway #1: Even after Trump’s presidential troubles, outsider candidates are still in vogue with Republican voters.


Even though Donald Trump didn’t support an outsider favorite like Roy Moore, it isn’t hard to see the similarities between the two politicians. Throughout the Alabama primary, Moore positioned himself as a political outsider that was ready to “drain the swamp” in Washington. Many pundits had wondered if this hard-hitting campaign style, that Donald Trump had popularized in the 2016 presidential contest, would resonate with Republican voters now after Trump’s time in the White House? Based on Tuesday’s results, it looks as if there is a sect of Republican voters that latch on to that outsider message.


Moore on Tuesday night ended up getting the most votes in Alabama’s GOP primary (around 41%). While Moore was unable to break the 50% threshold to stop a runoff election between him and Luther Savage, it was still an impressive showing. Moore’s anti-establishment message had gained him national notoriety over his views in wanting to push social conservative state laws in Alabama, even when federal statutes forbid it (like his insistence of implementing same-sex marriage ban, even though the Supreme Court ruled those laws to be unconstitutional). It’s still unclear if Moore can actually win a runoff election against GOP-establishment favorite Luther Strange, but based on Tuesday’s vote, the outsider message still resonates with many GOP voters. Depending on how Moore preforms in next month’s run-offs, don’t be surprised to see more outsider contenders try to primary GOP Establishment candidates in 2018.



Takeaway #2: Getting the backing of the GOP Establishment is still a huge advantage for candidate. (Or aka money and party backing still matter!)


Even though Moore ended up having an impressive showing on Tuesday, his GOP challenger, Luther Savage, still proved that money and major party backing can be a formidable combination in a political contest. For those that don’t know, Savage became Alabama’s interm-state senator after Jeff Sessions decided to take the Attorney General position at the Trump administration. However, Savage’s appointment as interm-senator came into question when then Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley had given the seat to him, even though Savage was part of an investigation in Bentley misusing his office to hide his extramarital affair. Bentley eventually resigned over the scandal, but that shadow over Savage’s appointment still remained with many voters.


For Savage, the money that was being funneled to his campaign by GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell aligned super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, and having the backing of the GOP Establishment looks to have helped him greatly in the Alabama primary. Even though Moore has established himself to be the “outsider” candidates that will shake-up Washington, DC if elected; Savage is still very much in striking distance with 32% of the GOP vote. While Strange definitely has an uphill battle to beat Moore in next month’s runoff election, the fact he’s been able to keep pace thus far – even with so much political baggage – shows how powerful money and party backing can be in national races.



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