Trump continually proves the old saying: "You can't out-think a man who ain't thinking."
He didn't think enough before endorsing Luther Strange in the August Alabama primary. Strange had been appointed (more about that tainted appointment below) temporarily to fill Jeff Sessions' Senate seat and was running for the permanent job against a couple of other Alabama conservatives. Strange had a leg up. He was already the incumbent, and he was a favorite of Mitch McConnell (actually, his boy. Since his appointment, Strange has become a very dependable grunt in the McConnell squad. And McConnell has shepherded millions of campaign aid into Strange's bank account). Trump wanted to lead that band, so he took over as drum major and announced, "Luther Strange -- my boy too!"
Trump apparently thought the August Alabama Senate primary was mainly between Luther Strange and Congressman Mo Brooks. There was some other guy running, but he wasn't a factor (somebody said). Brooks had been bitter as gall to Trump. He had righteously slammed the door before Trump got the nomination: “Donald Trump is an adulterer,” Brooks hissed in an interview in 2016. He clearly detests Trump, and why would Trump want another Ron Paul in the Senate?
That third guy in the race? According to Robert Costa and Philip Rucker, "it was unclear whether Trump fully grasped the potential" of former Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore.
Moore is a Bible-thumper and an Alabama celebrity (for defying Caesar in the name of Jesus). He has the personality of a yellow-jacket. He's been twice removed as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, cause he's a populist in the tradition of George Wallace. So he makes mainstream and country-club Republicans nervous, while some rural Democrats like him. Lots of Republicans too, cause Roy Moore won that August primary by six percentage points over Strange. Third-place finisher Mo Brooks quickly endorsed Moore, and so did former White House puppeteer Steve Bannon.
Hmmm. Maybe Trump finally thought. "Is it a good thing to stay balls-to-the-wall in a Republican primary where my guy is already a loser? And while Steve-O is backing the other guy?" Because Trump suddenly -- after going mute on support for Strange since last August -- just tweeted a day ago Strange's name in a positive way and announced he was going to Alabama tomorrow for a Strange rally. (Fill in your quip here.)
Luther Strange has become the embodiment of the Republican Establishment, the edifice that Bannon has vowed to blow up. Trump's had that mood too, channeling Bannon. How odd then it must have been for Trump to wake up and discover he's the avatar for a second-place swamp creature.
If Strange loses and Moore wins next Tuesday -- last poll I saw, Moore was leading Strange, 47 to 39 percent -- Trump looks both weak and foolish. If Moore wins next Tuesday, prospects for Democratic nominee Doug Jones goes up. Jones is a former U.S. prosecutor with a statewide reputation for courage. He prosecuted two men who set the bomb that killed those girls in the Birmingham church back on September 15, 1963.
What If Strange Wins Next Tuesday?
Strange was appointed to the seat by Governor Robert Bentley. Bentley was at the time himself under investigation for various misdeeds (and he would soon resign from office in complete disgrace). At the time of his appointment, Strange was Attorney General of Alabama, which also meant he was in charge of investigating Governor Bentley. Solid journalism revealed that Strange had delayed and vacillated the Bentley investigation, and for that he got a seat in the Senate. Which he lobbied for.
Bentley and Strange were already tainted by revelations of general Republican corruption in Alabama government at that time. The Speaker of the Alabama House had been convicted of profiting from his office in 2016 and sentenced to four years in prison. And the Bentley scandal was long-running and salacious.
In times like these, the nomination of Strange could produce a revolt among Republicans and an opportunity for Democrat Doug Jones. Either way, with whichever Republican wins the primary, the watch goes to Jones, whose prospects will depend on his smarts and his money. He's bringing Joe Biden to Alabama the week after the Republican run-off between Strange and Moore.