- - Thursday, October 26, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Some of the Republicans who didn’t get the memo are forming their familiar circular firing squad again, this time to assist the Democrats in taking down Roy Moore, the Republican candidate in the Dec. 12 special election in Alabama to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Senate.

Eager Democrats are calling the discontent an “insurrection,” though truth to tell the “insurrection,” such as it is, is visible mostly on the pages of The New York Times, which is always puzzled when voters in flyover country don’t vote the way Democrats do on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. When Democrats sneeze, certain Republicans catch cold.

The Republicans who have not yet caught a fresh cold understand that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell needs all the votes he can find to enact President Trump’s legislative agenda, and he won’t find any of them in the Democratic caucus.

Mr. Moore’s upset of Luther Strange, the Republican incumbent in a September primary, has put what was once known as “the fear of God” in the hearts of timid conservative Republicans. Two Republican senators who have been fighting off Trump Derangement Syndrome have decided that the prospect of running for re-election next year is too scary to think about, and they’re calling it quits and going home to find new work. Bob Corker announced first that he’s returning to Tennessee, and only this week Jeff Flake said he’s going home to Arizona.

Mr. Corker’s angry valedictory spat with President Trump recalls the ire of another Tennessean, the 18th-century frontiersman Davy Crockett, who was elected to Congress and two years later defeated for another term. “I’m going to Texas,” he told his constituents on election night, “and you can all go to hell.” He did go to Texas, and died at the Alamo.

A Republican loss in the Alabama special election would reduce the Republican majority in the Senate to a razor-thin 51 votes to 49. Given the unreliability of John McCain of Arizona, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who can’t be counted on to be there when Mitch McConnell and the party needs their votes, this puts the majority leader in a very hard place. He needs Mr. Moore and his vote.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC which was allied with Mr. McConnell and what’s left of the Republican elite in Alabama, spent $10 million trashing Mr. Moore as a liar, thief and mentally unstable, all in behalf of Luther Strange. On primary day Mr. Strange lost by 44,000 votes.

Some of the party regulars prefer to have a Democratic senator rather than a bomb-thrower in their ranks, but the bomb-thrower’s reputation for defending a monument to the Ten Commandments, publicly embracing his devout faith, describing Islam as a “false religion,” calling homosexuality an abomination and showing off his revolver at a campaign rally, does not seem so strange in Alabama.

Mr. Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, remains the favorite in the special election despite idle talk of insurrection. Alabama is deeply red; Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton there by 28 points. Joe Biden will campaign with Doug Jones, the Democratic candidate, but the former vice president only risks reminding voters of what they voted against last year.

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