Alabama Voters Cast Ballots in Closely Watched US Senate Race

Voters in the southeastern state of Alabama go to the polls Tuesday to decide a closely watched U.S. Senate race that has aligned President Donald Trump with the Senate’s Republican leadership and tests his relationship with his base of supporters.

Last month, Trump endorsed Senator Luther Strange, an establishment-backed Republican candidate who has trailed opponent Roy Moore in a special runoff election. Strange was appointed to the Senate seat vacated when Jeff Sessions became attorney general.

Trump continued his public support of Strange Tuesday, tweeting that his endorsement has strengthened Strange’s showings in the polls.

“Luther Strange has been shooting up in the Alabama polls since my endorsement. Finish the job – vote today for ‘Big Luther,'” an apparent reference to the candidate’s 206-centimeter height.

Despite the president’s support, Moore, a former Alabama chief justice who was twice removed from the bench for disobeying judicial orders, has maintained a lead in the polls. He is campaigning on an anti-Washington platform and is known for unsuccessfully pushing for the public display of the Ten Commandments and opposing gay marriage.

A poll conducted after Trump campaigned for Strange Friday night in Alabama showed Trump’s support has not had much impact on the race. The survey, released by the Alabama polling group Cygnal and the data firm L2, just one day before the election, showed Moore holding an 11.3 percent lead over Strange.  

The latest Real Clear Politics polling average completed on September 24 shows Moore with an 11-point lead, two points higher than it was one week ago.

Vice President Mike Pence addressed several hundred Strange supporters Monday at a campaign rally in Birmingham, saying Strange had been a “real friend” to the Trump administration.

At the rally with Pence, Strange urged supporters to go to the polls. “There’s a lot on the line,” he said.

Moore has high-profile support led by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and his conservative website, Breitbart News. He also has the backing of former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

Bannon spoke at a Moore rally Monday in the town of Fairhope, telling the crowd that Alabama can prove that “this populist, nationalist, conservative movement is on the rise.” Bannon was accompanied by Duck Dynasty reality television star Phil Robertson and Nigel Farage, the Brexit leader.

A super political action committee linked to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has injected millions of dollars into the Strange campaign amid Republican concern Moore would be a disruptive force in the Senate, or possibly lose to Democrat Doug Jones.   

Moore led Strange in the first round of Republican voting, but the margin was not wide enough to avoid Tuesday’s runoff election.

Some political observers say the runoff will be an early test of Trump’s influence over his political base. Republican leaders are concerned about the impact a loss by Strange could have on Trump’s political strength ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, as well as Republicans’ ability to advance Trump’s agenda in Congress.

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