By Quin Hillyer at the New York Times;

Mobile, Ala. — In a curious way, the sex-abuse allegations against Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican Senate candidate, may actually be helping his campaign.

The continuing conundrum for his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, is that nowhere near enough Alabamians believe the allegations. Indeed, a noticeable backlash has hyper-energized Mr. Moore’s volunteers and a cohort of generally apolitical citizens now furious at the spreading of what they consider viciously false smears.

The even bigger problem, of course, remains: Mr. Jones is an openly liberal Democrat running in one of the nation’s most heavily Republican states.

That’s why a contest that even 10 days ago seemed remarkably fluid looked by the middle of this week to be turning into a rout of Mr. Jones by Mr. Moore — unless two of Mr. Moore’s more outlandish comments, unearthed late Thursday afternoon, re-stir the pot.

A savvy Republican veteran of D.C. and south Alabama politics explained over burgers early this week why the race had seemed so unpredictable for most of November. He said he knew plenty of Republicans who were bothered by Mr. Moore’s record: two evictions from his job as the state’s chief justice, along with repeated assertions that homosexuality should be criminalized and that the First Amendment does not protect Muslims. Now, the activist said, these Republicans had decided that the sex-abuse allegations finally provided them with an excuse not to vote for Mr. Moore. But that isn’t the end of their decision-making.

“They’re still not sure,” he said, “whether that’s an excuse to vote for Jones, or instead to cast a write-in, or perhaps not to vote at all.”

As Jonathan Gray, a local conservative political consultant who isn’t working the Senate race, explained to me midweek, those permutations in wavering Republicans’ mind-sets are crucial. He felt that not enough habitual Republican voters would go all the way to Jones, so he predicted a Moore victory.

“If Moore starts at 55 percent and Jones at 45, it does Jones no good if an extra 5 percent of Moore voters just stay home or cast a write-in,” Mr. Gray said. “Unless they switch all the way over to Jones, the Democrat still loses.”…

[The full column is here.]


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