- - Wednesday, November 15, 2017


“You can’t beat Somebody with Nobody” is one of the first rules of politics, but occasionally Somebody is exposed as a wolf in borrowed clothes and Nobody wins by default. Nobody in Alabama is a man named Doug Jones, and a fortnight ago his chances of defeating Roy Moore were somewhere between Slim and None. And then Slim unexpectedly left town.

Accusations from a dark past continue to grow like toadstools after a warm rain against Roy Moore, the duly nominated Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, and Mr. Jones is suddenly no longer regarded as just another Democratic cream puff in a state where Democrats make up less than a third of the voters. Alabama hasn’t elected a Democrat in a statewide race for more than two decades, and if Mr. Nobody wins it will be because he woke up one morning in the right place at the right time, and not because Alabama has embraced his liberal politics. He is working mightily to keep those under wraps.

Would he support the politics of Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the hyper-liberal leader of the Democrats in the Senate? “I’m going to make a judgment once I’m there,” he told The Washington Post. That has to be taken as a “yes” because there would be no other choice.

Would he want Barack Obama to campaign with him in Alabama? Mr. Jones won’t say, though he did invite Mr. Obama’s faithful sidekick, Joe Biden, in for a campaign swing. Mr. Jones danced the Tuscaloosa two-step when he was asked for his view of the president’s job performance. “It doesn’t really matter what my view is,” he said. That’s a curious answer, since a candidate’s views are all that matters in a campaign for office.

Mr. Jones cites as proof of bipartisan bona fides the fact that he was appointed U.S. attorney by a Democratic president and confirmed by a Republican Senate. But Mr. Jones‘ campaign website reveals him eager to walk in lockstep to enact the liberal Democratic agenda. He favors a “living wage” enforced by government, “investments” in Medicaid and education, and opposes repealing Obamacare, arguing that “health care is a right.” He scorns Mr. Trump’s decision to pull the U.S. out of the job-killing Paris Climate Accord.

If politics were poker, the “tell” would be Mr. Jones‘ answer to a Republican voter who posed a question at a barbecue joint in Montgomery. “If it comes down to what you think the people of Alabama want, versus what you know in your heart is better for the United States, what would you do?” Mr. Jones recalls that he said, “My needle would have to really go toward what’s best for the United States and hope that I can educate the people of Alabama so they will understand.” That’s the obvious answer, but not when expressed as if by a long-suffering teacher to a particularly thick yokel.

If Mr. Jones wins the Dec. 12 special election, he would reduce the Republican margin to a paper-thin 51 to 49. Given the handful of unreliable Republicans in the Senate, Mr. Trump’s ambitious conservative agenda would surely die. Another conservative judge for the U.S. Supreme Court would be difficult to confirm.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, and Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, may think that’s applause they hear for trying to do the right thing about Roy Moore. It’s more likely to be the noise of a Democratic freight train bearing down on the Republican leadership. If they don’t have a Plan B to do something about it, they better get one, and in a hurry.

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