Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Steve Flowers: Inside the Statehouse - GOP Senate Runoff in less than two weeks

  Folks, we are less than two weeks away from the election contest for the U.S. Senate seat. The runoff between former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville may be close and will definitely be interesting.

  The two conservatives were in a virtual dead heat in the March 3rd GOP Primary. Congressman Bradley Byrne (1st District) finished a strong third.

  The runoff was initially set for March 31. However, the coronavirus delayed the runoff until July 14. Therefore, the big question is: how will the 15-week delay affect the runoff outcome? It is difficult to say. However, my guess is that it may be a salvation for Sessions.  

  Most pundits and polls indicated that Tuberville had the momentum and was set to win the runoff. The three-month hiatus may have stymied, if not thwarted, that momentum the same way that football coaches call a timeout when the opposing team is driving toward a winning touchdown. It halts the Big Mo.

  Amazingly, the entire campaign has been about Donald Trump and who can cozy up the most to the Republican president. All three frontrunner candidates, Tuberville, Sessions, and Byrne made their campaign pitches not about issues but who can be Trump’s buddy or valet.

  Sessions and Byrne had instances in which they both had lapses in their obedience to the irrational and irascible Don, so Tuberville’s lack of playing time in the political arena made him the most easily envisioned servant for Trump.

  Coach Tuberville’s entire campaign has been based on him being loyal to Trump. It has paid dividends. He led with 33% to Sessions' 32% and Byrne's 25%. Indeed, as soon as the first primary was over in early March, Trump officially endorsed Tuberville. This endorsement propelled Tuberville into a nine-point lead in the polls in mid-March, which is when the pandemic hit and the election was delayed until July 14.  

  In the meantime, when the national economic virus shutdown subsided somewhat in mid-May, the campaign resumed. Trump again inserted himself into the Alabama GOP Senate race by blasting Sessions again with yet another vitriolic attack. Trump claimed that Sessions had asked him four times to be U.S. Attorney General. Finally, Sessions took up for himself and quickly retorted that he never asked Trump for the job.

  Folks, I have watched Jeff Sessions’ career as our Junior U.S. Senator for 20 years and prior to that as Alabama’s attorney general, and I am here to tell you that Jeff Sessions’ truthfulness, veracity, and integrity trump Trump's by a country mile. Honesty, integrity, and truthfulness is not Trump’s forte. However, it has been Sessions’ his entre 30+ years in public service.

  In fact, Trump owed more to Sessions than naming him Attorney General. When Trump began his quest for the GOP presidential nomination, he was given very little chance. Jeff Sessions’ endorsement - as the nation’s most conservative senator - gave the bombastic, egocentric New Yorker credibility.

  Actually, I said at the time that Sessions' acquiescence to becoming U.S. Attorney General indicated that the move was a step down from being a veteran 20-year U.S. Senator and Chairman of the Judiciary Committee in a safe U.S. Senate seat. You can bet your bottom dollar he is now sorry he accepted the post. It is apparent that he is not going to get Trump’s endorsement for obvious reasons. He would not break the law or do Trump’s bidding, so Trump hates him.

  Trump has reaffirmed his endorsement of Tommy Tuberville. Historically, in Alabama politics, endorsements by one politician in another political race have not been advantageous to the candidate. In fact, they have been counterproductive. Alabamians have inherently resented endorsements. However, in this case and in this race, my guess is that Trump is so popular among Republican voters in Alabama that his attacks on Sessions and endorsement of Tuberville will propel the coach to victory. Polls show Tuberville with a double-digit lead. He has run a good campaign staying on point and simply saying, "I am going to support Donald Trump."

  Have a happy 4th of July!

  About the author: Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His weekly column appears in over 60 Alabama newspapers. He served 16 years in the state legislature. Steve may be reached at He can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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