Roy Moore is still in a close race with Democrat Doug Jones, but you might not know it from watching Alabama television. The Democratic candidate is spending about seven times more than the scandal-plagued Republican. Jones has aired about 10,000 television ads compared to about 1,000 for Moore.
“I saw probably 40 to 50 Doug Jones ads, and I saw one Roy Moore ad,” Daniel Deriso, an aide to the Democratic mayor-elect of Birmingham, said of the Thanksgiving break.
Politico reports that Jones held a financial advantage even before the accusations of sexual misconduct against Moore. Since the reports of Moore’s alleged misbehavior in the late 1970s became public, online donations to the Jones campaign have rolled in from around the country. At the same time, the Moore campaign took a hit as the Republican National Committee cut off support.
AL.com gave Moore a slight fundraising advantage in late October. At that point, Moore had raised $2.5 million through the end of September and had $543,000 on hand after the difficult primary fight. Jones had raised $1.6 million and had a balance of $1 million. Three weeks later, after Moore’s accusers came forward, the Washington Examiner reported that Jones was raising $250,000 per day.
The fundraising advantage gives Jones the upper hand in the race, which is rare for Democrats in deep red Alabama. Even amid the ongoing scandal and with scant support from national Republicans, polling shows a tight race with Moore and Jones in a dead heat. Jones’ ability to drown out Moore’s message in a blitz of advertising may be the deciding factor in the race.
Politico notes that Jones’ ads are aimed at Republicans who are not happy with Moore. The ads feature Republican critics of Moore, criticisms of the healthcare system and emphasize Jones’ background as a federal prosecutor, a nonpartisan position that helps to distance him from the national Democratic Party. The ads feature quotes from Ivanka Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Al.) saying that they believe Moore’s accusers.
The Jones campaign is flush enough with ad money that it is moving beyond attacking Moore’s sexual history to education policy. In a new ad, Jones says that Moore “compares preschool and early childhood education to Nazi indoctrination” while Jones promises to work “across party lines for preschool and smaller class sizes.”
Appearing as nonthreatening and bipartisan is vital for Jones. Fifty-two percent of Alabamans identify as Republicans and half say they are conservative. There is no path to victory in a statewide election for a Democrat who cannot win Republican votes.
It is Jones’ liberal views that are his Achilles heel in conservative Alabama. His opposition to restrictions on abortion has made him vulnerable to attacks in a state where 57 percent of voters identify as pro-life. Still, some Alabamans find the accusations against Moore too much to overlook.
“I’d like to see someone in there who’d support Trump, but I believe the women,” Suzanne Turner of Huntsville told the Washington Post. “I put a Doug Jones sign in my yard. I felt a little sick doing that. But I had to.”
The race is reminiscent of last summer’s special election in Georgia in which Democrats pinned their hopes and treasure on Jon Ossof. Ossof outspent Republican Karen Handel by six to one in the race for former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price’s congressional seat, but still lost a close race.
As the campaign enters the final stretch, it will be Jones whose message inundates the airwaves and sets the tone. Jones will be able to paint himself as a nonthreatening moderate while hammering away with the argument that Moore is an extremist and a sexual predator. In Alabama, it may still not be enough.
Originally published on The Resurgent