MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – With the control of the US Senate on the line, Alabama’s race is being shaped to become a controversial showdown between a college football coach backed by President Donald Trump and the body’s most threatened Democrat, who will need to motivate his base and court moderate voters to gain political survival.
Armed with Trump’s approval and fame from years on the sidelines, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville easily defeated former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in Tuesday̵
Tuberville has never had a public office but threw itself as a better match with Alabama voters in its winning streak.
“Democrat Doug Jones is running for re-election with the One Alabama slogan. You can not make any mistakes about it. What Doug really means is a liberal Alabama, “Tuberville said on election night.
After removing an unlikely victory, Jones does not stop his chances at another in a race that will be both expensive and combative.
“My message will be very simple: We must have leadership. We are in a time of crisis. I want you to look at the mail, ”Jones said, adding that he wants to talk about jobs, education and health care.
David Mowery, an Alabama-based political consultant, said the “tire is stacked” against Jones in a state where Trump captured 62 percent of the vote in 2016, but it would be a mistake for Republicans to believe the race will be easy.
Jones is now facing headwinds in a presidential election year and a GOP nominee without baggage from his opponent, Roy Moore, a religious right-wing candidate who polarized before being accused of sexual misconduct.
“I think Tuberville is probably a two-touch favorite,” Mowery said. But (Jones) won for the first time. So obviously there’s a chance, right? To use a terrible football metaphor, you still have to play the game. “
Jones relied on increasing the Democratic election to win last time, including black voters who make up 27% of the state, and persuaded some swinging voters and moderate Republicans to come to his side or run for office.
“I think the DC perspective that this race is a slam dunk for Republicans has always been wrong and getting more wrong by the day,” said Zac McCetary, a Democratic pollster working for some pro-Jones groups.
McCetary said Democratic turnout should be higher for the presidential election, especially among black voters and young voters, two key groups for Jones. And while Trump is expected to win Alabama easily, his margin in November may be narrower than in 2016, McCetary said.
Republicans have made recreating the once-reliable red state a priority, seeing it as their best chance of picking up a seat in the battle for party control of the Senate.
“We want that backrest. “It will be a battle, but we will win the war,” said Terry Lathan, president of the Alabama Republican Party.
Trump said Wednesday that Tuberville would be a “big senator” and condemned Jones for “not doing the job.” The president pressed hard to deny Sessions the chance to retake the Senate seat he left to become his attorney general, and harshly criticized his rejection of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
The 100-day race is shaping up to be expensive and controversial.
A nation, a group in line with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has set aside $ 3.2 million in advertising time in Alabama, and Club for Growth, a conservative organization focused on economic issues, has begun sending an $ 1.3 million ad purchase against Jones.
Jones has raised $ 9 million in campaign donations, according to the latest fundraising reports.
Democrats have intensified attacks on Tuberville, pointing to his handling of the case of an Auburn footballer accused of statutory rape of a 15-year-old girl, and his involvement in a hedge fund in which his partner pleaded guilty to fraud.
“‘Late. Jones got justice for four little girls murdered under the church by the Clan. Tommy Tuberville thought a game suspension was enough when one of his players raped a little girl. Who cares more about your daughter’s future? The Alabama Democratic Party tweeted Wednesday morning. As an American lawyer, Jones sued Klan members behind the 1965 church bombing in Birmingham.
Tuberville’s campaign has said law enforcement agencies dealt with the player’s case, who returned from suspension following an agreement to bring an offense. Tuberville’s involvement in the hedge fund was a mistake he paid for, they said.
McCetary said what Tuberville has done for him is that “Alabama has a Republican DNA for it during a presidential election year,” but that the current health and economic crisis in America could leave voters open to an experienced moderate.
“I think this race is close,” he said.