Political News

There is a roughly 0% chance Republicans boot Roy Moore from the Senate if he wins

Posted December 5, 2017 12:46 p.m. EST

— @ryanstruyk, politics data reporter: Happy Tuesday, folks. We're now just one week from the special election in Alabama and everything seems to be tipping back Roy Moore's way. The President is totally on board. The RNC is back in the game. Mitch McConnell says it's up to the voters. And this is all happening less than a month after the initial accusations broke and he was all but left for dead.

So let's start here: Explain why (most of) the GOP is back on the Roy Moore train.

@CillizzaCNN, editor-at-large: I'll start: Because they know a) they can't get rid of him and b) he is looking more and more like a winner

It's pure political pragmatism.

@ericbradner, politics reporter: Part of what's happening is that Trump is seeing his base stick with Moore and doesn't want to lose them. So his endorsement set off a chain reaction. It's why, for example, the RNC got back in Alabama. Mitch McConnell's orbit -- the NRSC and the Senate Leadership Fund super PAC -- is still staying out of it.

@jennagiesta, director of polling and election analytics: In a special election on a weird day in December, the only way to win is to generate excitement for your candidate. There's no other reason for most people in Alabama to go to the polls that day except this one election. Without support from Trump, that excitement seemed to be flagging a bit.

@CillizzaCNN: But McConnell is now hedging to "I'll let the people of Alabama decide" which is way different than "Roy Moore should drop out."

@ryanstruyk: So basically, Roy Moore went to bat against McConnell Inc. and won.

@ericbradner: For sure. McConnell tried everything -- EVERYTHING -- to get Moore out of the race. Now he's giving up.

@CillizzaCNN: And Moore's refusal to get out speaks to an important -- and uncomfortable -- fact in politics: It's REALLY hard to get rid of someone who doesn't want to go.

Particularly when that person is an anti-establishment type who owes the typical party power brokers nothing

@jennagiesta: See: Trump, Donald circa October 2016.

@ryanstruyk: OK, so, with that thought in mind: The NRSC is still out of this race. Cory Gardner -- the NRSC chair, not exactly small potatoes -- has made headlines by saying he wants Moore expelled.

Let's just assume for a minute that Roy Moore gets elected. What are the odds he gets expelled from the US Senate? Give me a percentage.

@CillizzaCNN: 0%

How can you do it? Expel a guy who just won an election -- warts and all.

And McConnell is now in the "let the people of Alabama decide" camp. If they decide they want Moore, how does McConnell justify expelling him?

@ericbradner: Yeah, I mean I could hedge and say 1% ... but I'm with Cillizza. Alabama voters are well aware of the accusations Moore faces.

@jennagiesta: Same. And Alabama voters are very clear that they'd rather have a Republican in this seat, even in polls that show Jones with an edge. A Moore win would be a vote for the party.

@CillizzaCNN: I think that Cory Gardner thing is an empty threat. That he probably wishes he could walk back.

@ericbradner: McConnell set the process when the (Sen. Al) Franken accusation came up: Let the ethics committee deal with it. And Democrats bought into it in Franken's case -- which doesn't leave them with any high ground here.

@CillizzaCNN: Yup

I mean

This can be referred to the Senate Ethics Committee -- and probably will. But that's like when your parents told you your goldfish was being flushed down the toilet so he could swim free in the ocean and then come back one day. That goldfish ain't coming back. (Maybe that was only my parents?) And the Senate Ethics Committee has proven itself to be totally toothless over the years.

@jennagiesta: So given the very public statements about expulsion, safe to assume the Democratic ad-makers have their spots about how the GOP is the party of Moore already queued up for 2018?

@CillizzaCNN: Yup

"The party of accused child molester Roy Moore...."

@ericbradner: You could see lots of three-person lineups: Trump, Moore and (insert home-state Republican here).

@ryanstruyk: What kind of an impact do we think that will have though? We saw how well the "at least we're not as bad as the other guy" argument went in 2016.

@jennagiesta: I think it depends on whether you're starting with differential enthusiasm from each party's base. If Democrats are the more fired-up party to begin with, as they were in Virginia last month (really, it was a month ago!), then it probably adds fuel to the fire. But if the tax bill actually has the impact that Republicans clearly seem to think it will, then it's likely not enough.

Not enough on its own, I should say.

@ericbradner: Last year Trump wasn't president yet. For all the talk about Democrats needing a national message, midterms tend to be about the person sitting in the Oval Office -- and, for sure, Democrats are fired up in a way they never were for Hillary Clinton. And Moore will be seen as an even more objectionable iteration of that personality and brand of politics.

Republicans are convinced the tax bill is the solution to all their problems. I don't buy it at all.

@jennagiesta: Gallup has new numbers out today from Friday and Saturday interviewing showing very little support for the bill as it was making its way through the Senate, just 25% of independents said they approved of it.

Overall, it has just 29% support.

@ryanstruyk: Okay, last question. It's the one on everyone's minds. A Washington Post poll over the weekend showed essentially a neck-and-neck race. Roy Moore seems to have some momentum. Does Doug Jones (have we even said his name yet?) still have a chance to win this thing?

@ericbradner: Yes he does. Covering the race, it feels like things are moving Moore's direction. BUT

@CillizzaCNN: [drums fingers]


@ericbradner: There's a reason Steve Bannon's going to Fairhope tonight, and President Trump is in Pensacola (nearby Florida) on Friday: They're in the Mobile media market. That's where you find the more affluent, moderate, business-type Republicans who could vote for Jones or sit this one out. And Moore's folks are clearly worried about that area most.

@CillizzaCNN: 1. Eric is right

2. I think Moore wins.

The allegations are simply not believed by lots of Alabama Republicans. And those who have doubts -- well that's why Trump is going to Pensacola: To give those folks some cover. To say "it's alright to be for Roy. I am."

@ericbradner: On the Jones side: The Alabama Democratic Party isn't exactly a well-oiled machine, and national Democrats can't play in the Deep South, so Jones has been building this from the ground up. He has tons of money -- but the organizational task he faced was just huge. He'll need a massive African-American turnout to make it close.

@jennagiesta: I'd agree with Eric that there's definitely a chance Jones wins. When Moore has been on the statewide ballot without these allegations holding him down and with top-of-the-ticket races drawing turnout, he still vastly underperformed other Republicans on the same ballot. He needs the turnout boost Trump can give him.

And let's not forget how hard it is to pin down the real likely voters in polling for an election like this, there's huge variation across polls and methods, which makes it hard to know where things really stand.

@CillizzaCNN: IF Jones wins: His chances of holding the seat come 2020 are roughly 0%. Which makes some of this moot. But, two years of another Democratic vote in the Senate is something Chuck Schumer takes every day and twice on Sunday.

@ericbradner: Yup. And the 2020 map is so good for Democrats that they can lose this Senate seat but find a way to pick it up elsewhere without it drastically changing their calculus.

@jennagiesta: Wait, wait, wait, it's way too early to break out the 2020 map!!

@ericbradner: Cory Gardner, Thom Tillis, Joni Ernst...

@jennagiesta: #oneelectionatatime

@ryanstruyk: Time flies when you're having ... er, never mind

Side note, though: Cillizza is right. A 51-49 Senate would be a pretty big deal. It would certainly dial up the temperature to ram tax reform through before Jones is seated. And if the GOP only had 51 seats this whole time, instead of 52 seats, you'd saying goodbye to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and states' ability to pull back Planned Parenthood dollars (and a few not-so-sexy rule cancellations.)

@ericbradner: And no John McCain thumbs-down moment!

@ryanstruyk: Speaking of which, I'm kind of surprised we made it through this whole conversation without any breaking news or Trump tweets amiright

aaaaaaand I probably just jinxed it so apologies in advance

@ericbradner: Always a twitchy Twitter finger away...

@ryanstruyk: You can keep following our coverage of the Alabama Senate race on CNN.com/Politics over the next week and during the big finale when Alabamans head to the polls next Tuesday, December 12.

@ericbradner: (ALABAMIANS, WITH AN I, they would all shout right now.)

@ryanstruyk: guess I'm not getting any write-in votes now am I?