Alabama Senate Race Roundup

Nov 23, 2017
Originally published on November 23, 2017 7:18 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

An internet ad in the Alabama Senate race shows a series of photos of women and girls looking very, very young.

(SOUNDBITE OF AD)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: They were girls when Roy Moore immorally pursued them. Now they are women, witnesses to us all of his disturbing conduct. Will we make their abuser a U.S. senator?

INSKEEP: The ad comes from Doug Jones, the Democrat in the race. A couple of weeks ago, he was given little chance in a deep red state. Now, he is directly raising the allegations of misconduct and sexual assault against Moore. NPR's Domenico Montanaro is following this race. Domenico, good morning.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: This is beginning to feel like a replay of Donald Trump's election. The Democrat is saying, this man is unworthy, he has the wrong character, and Republicans are saying just keep thinking about Supreme Court justices.

MONTANARO: That's somewhat true. I mean, you even hear - or see - a lot of polling that shows Doug Jones leading in this race, which has people like me saying don't pay much attention to the polls, especially because this is a state that is a very red state, a place that went very heavily for Donald Trump. And you had Trump come out and give what amounted to an endorsement of Roy Moore, saying that he denies it strongly, these are 40-year-old allegations and, you know, that he thinks that they need a Republican in the United States Senate. Obviously, a lot of people drawing some irony from that given that more than a dozen women during the 2016 campaign accused Donald Trump of unwanted sexual advances and sexual misconduct and assault.

INSKEEP: Sounds like you're a little doubtful that these polls might really turn out to be the result here. It's just unpredictable.

MONTANARO: You know, the thing is, you know, polling's not exact, and it's not supposed to be something that everyone looks at and says, oh, definitely, this is what's going to happen. It may very well be that that was the state of the race a week ago. But you know, things can change in a few weeks. And that's one thing Democrats are warning about - to say that as this race - you know, there's a few weeks left still in this race, and anything could happen. And it's Alabama. There's lots of Republicans in the state and a deep well of support for President Trump. And given that President Trump has now re-endorsed Moore, that could be very helpful to him.

INSKEEP: OK, so briefly, Moore gave an interview, said the whole thing is depressing because he says the allegations against him are false. But there's also this older interview in which he tells a story of meeting his wife. Why is that drawing attention?

MONTANARO: It's drawing attention because when he met his wife - or when she first caught his attention - she was a teenager. He went to a recital. She was at a community college, but she was only about 15 or 16, and he was 30 years old. And he retells this story of meeting her eight years later when he was 38 and she was 24, and remembering who she was and remembering her name from that first night that he had met her. So combine that with the interview he gave to a conservative radio host who asked him if he'd ever dated teenage girls, and he said not generally. And it's raising some eyebrows in Alabama and outside.

INSKEEP: So at around the same time, we have allegations against Democrat Al Franken. We have John Conyers - at least one colleague has asked him to resign amid allegations against him. In the last day, we've learned about Joe Barton of Texas. Somebody released an explicit photo of the Republican, which he says was part of a consensual relationship. All these cases are different. The facts are different, to be totally fair. But what does the sheer mass of these cases do to the efforts to get anything substantively done in Congress?

MONTANARO: Well, it certainly can be a big distraction. There are a lot of actions that members of Congress are trying to push for to get some real, consequential action to change the reporting process. At the same time, it can actually be helpful to Republicans because sitting around your dinner table for Thanksgiving, you're not debating the overhaul to the tax code that they're proposing.

INSKEEP: Domenico, thanks as always.

MONTANARO: You're welcome, and happy Thanksgiving.

INSKEEP: Happy Thanksgiving to you. NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.