Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore did not make a campaign appearance on Friday, and had no events planned on Saturday or Sunday. This seems a little odd considering that the special election is scheduled for Tuesday, December 12.
Moore will make a joint appearance with Steve Bannon on Monday night, but Alabama politicos have openly questioned Moore’s strategy during the last month that saw the candidate making few campaign appearances in what has turned into a very close race.
Although Friday’s winter weather scrambled both campaigns’ plans, Moore’s absence from the trail is a notable contrast to Democratic nominee Doug Jones, whose campaign said Saturday he had done 217 public events over two months, and who has done almost daily appearances in the campaign’s last weeks. Jones made an appearance in Selma on Saturday afternoon and was scheduled to appear at Alabama State University in Montgomery on Saturday evening.
The campaign was also mounting get out the vote concerts Saturday, featuring St. Paul and the Broken Bones in Birmingham and Jason Isbell in Huntsville.
“I don’t know what day we’re in now that Roy Moore is in hiding,” Jones was quoted saying in Selma Saturday afternoon.
Whether the absence has any effect on Moore’s chances remains to be seen. The Real Clear Politics polling average Saturday found Moore up 3.8 points over Jones, and no Democrat has won a statewide election in Alabama since 2008.
“The Moore campaign is more worried about their base than persuading any new voters at this point,” said Lance Hyche, a Republican consultant. “They’re probably in the same school as President Trump. He spends a lot of time worrying about his base.”
David Mowery, a Montgomery political consultant who managed Democrat Bob Vance’s campaign against Moore in 2012, said Saturday that Moore might be running a variation of a “front porch” campaign, perhaps a sign they feel in the lead.
“When you’re ahead, or you’re the perceived favorite, why give your opponent a chance to ding you?” he said. “It’s kind of smart, and we’re being swarmed by national media.”
Not only is it smart for Moore to lay low, it’s really the only viable strategy he has. Being out in public makes him a target for unfriendly national media — outlets that most Alabamians watch. So the campaign is covered a lot less minutely as long as Moore is AWOL.
Moore has plenty of paid media to keep his name out there. And not being available for questions means he doesn’t have to answer to the growing number of women accusing him of inappropriate behavior and sexual assault. Just about every time he opens his mouth on the subject, he contradicts what he said earlier. And his claims of some gigantic conspiracy against him by Republicans in Washington and/or the news media is embarrassing — or should be — to Alabama Republicans.
Moore’s campaign polling no doubt shows him ahead as long as their turnout models of the GOP base hold. But all bets are off in this race as the Republican base wrestles with whether to make the effort to go to the polls on Tuesday and elect someone like Roy Moore.