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Monday, October 10, 2005

AL-Gov: An Interesting Test-Case

Posted by DavidNYC

In the flap over the Miers nomination, lots of liberals have gleefully predicted that this is finally, truly the moment we've long been waiting for: The emergence of a real and unhealable rift between the Republican party's rank-and-file Christian conservative "base" and the money-grubbing, neo-conning leadership. I've always been skeptical about such predictions - they've been made non-stop since the end of the Cold War, without ever being - but I do agree that the level of anger and vitriol spewing forth from the alleged base seems unprecedented.

But Billmon sagely questions this hope with the following observation. It's hard to do Billmon justice by just quoting a line or two, so permit me to indulge in a long-ish excerpt:

[T]he anguished caterwauling in Right Blogostan (and in George Will's op-ed factory) doesn't seem to represent the mainstream of conservative opinion out in that bizarre constructed reality sometimes known as "meat space."


It's a useful reminder that while we tend to think of the "base" as consisting of the partisan bootlickers in Washington and us blowhards here in Blogostan, there are many conservatives and liberals out there who don't listen to Rush Limbaugh or Air America, don't spend their spare time surfing the blogs, don't compulsively follow the latest political developments, and don't fly off the handle just because their favorite legal idol has been passed over for a Supreme Court nomination.


The kind of conservatives I'm talking about are probably anti-abortion, but have conflicting views on the specifics -- like whether or when or how much of Roe v Wade should be overturned. Discussions about whether abortions should be permitted in rape and incest case make them uncomfortable. Like Bush, they'd rather duck the hard questions. They're "culture of life" conservatives.

For the silent minority, judicial appointments simply may not have the overwhelming importance that they do for the true dittoheads and the Federalist Society groupies. Nor does the partisan ferocity that caused so many blog nuts to pop their gasket when they heard that Miers had given money to the hated 'rats. Some silent minority conservatives are Democrats, or used to be. Who knows? Some may have even given money to Al Gore, way back when he was the great white Southern Democratic hope.

So who's right? Billmon or the schismatics? It seems to me that the University of South Alabama & the Mobile Register have provided us with an interesting test-case in the form of a poll on the Alabama Republican gubernatorial primary (likely voters, January in parens):

Riley: 44 (35)
Moore: 25 (43)
Undecided: 31 (22)
MoE: ±5%

Bob Riley is the incumbent Governor of Alabama. Roy Moore, as you'll probably recall, is the crazy "Ten Commandments" judge who got booted off the AL high court for violating a court order requiring him to remove his religious monument from the state judicial building.

Both Moore and Riley have launched their campaigns in the past week. The showdown between the two men is a straight-up battle between Mainstream Republicanism and the forces of Outer Wingnuttia. If you're a conservative who is sick of the fact that, after 5 years of Republican domination of all branches of government, abortion is still legal, school prayer is still illegal, and gays can freely walk the streets, then Roy Moore is your man.

So what does all this have to do with Miers? The Register poll was conducted from October 3rd through October 6th. The timing, in other words, was perfect - Bush announced Miers' nomination on the 3rd, and right-wing anger was at its frothiest during those first few days.

But wow, check out those trendlines. In under a year, Moore went from +8 to -19 - an astounding 27-point delta. What makes this move all the more astounding is the poll was taken right when Moore should have most benefitted from the backlash against the Miers nomination - if the schismatics' theory is correct.

But, sadly, it looks like Billmon is right - the exact opposite seems to have happened. Roy Moore's doing disastrously right when he ought to have been doing his best. However, there is a fair amount of "noise" in this poll - that is, external factors affecting the outcome - which is why I call it only an "interesting" test-case, not a "great" one. (For instance, Riley's gotten positive coverage in the Katrina aftermath, while Moore's been mostly invisible.)

And even Moore hasn't exactly come out swinging against Miers (apologies for linking to World Nut Daily), so maybe embittered wingnuts will think he's sold them out, too. But if he chooses to make a big issue of it, I will be very curious to see if he gains any traction. And whether Moore does or doesn't will give us a window on to how deep this supposed split is.

Posted at 12:50 PM in Alabama | Technorati

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I doubt the Harriet Miers nomination will cause the expected schism in the Republican party. Even most hard-righters will be satisfied with the conservative red meat they can expect to hear from Harriet Miers in the weeks to come. They'll also pleased with her close personal association with George Bush, a man the rank-and-file righties still believe is the second coming of Christ. The disappointment of the conservative elite won't matter to them. They're far more satisfied with Miers' seal of approval by James Dobson and Pat Robertson than they are about the dismay of George Will and Richard Viguerie.

As for the Alabama case study, I've always understood that Riley was a Bible-thumper himself, though perhaps not as big of lunatic as Moore. I don't think Riley is representative of the Bob Dole-John McCain wing of the party, and I believe the upcoming primary battle will be more of a referendum on Riley's failed attempt to raise taxes in the state.

The primary battle of 2008 should be the real meltdown of the Republican Party. Independents and moderate Republicans will be all for John McCain and Rudy Giuliani while the religious right will work to sabotage them with the same fanatical bloodlust used to sabotage McCain in 2000. That promises to be the most amusing GOP crossroads for us to observe, provided we're not embroiled in the never-ending grudge match for power in our own party.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2005 03:47 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The showdown between the two men is a straight-up battle between Mainstream Republicanism and the forces of Outer Wingnuttia.

As for the Alabama case study, I've always understood that Riley was a Bible-thumper himself, though perhaps not as big of lunatic as Moore.

More-or-less correct. Governor Riley is an anti-choice devout Southern Baptist. It definitely took Roy Moore to make Riley look centrist. That's not to criticize Riley too much; I respect his attempt to reform Alabama's regressive tax code, using the argument that it's Christian to help the poor (Naturally, this went down in flames amongst rank-and-file Republicans.). I was also amused that during the Moore Monument brouhaha, Governor Riley "boldly" put the Ten Commandments up in the Alabama state capitol...in the midst of a larger display that passed the Supreme Court's Lemon test. Inadvertantly or not, that provided some evidence that the federal government wasn't really coming to confiscate people's Bibles. So he seems like rather a decent fellow, but I still hope he doesn't count as mainstream.

Posted by: mds [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2005 04:12 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I was surprised by Riley's courage on the tax issue. Who do you believe would win in a rematch between Riley and former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman?

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2005 08:04 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Mark: The answers to that question are all over the map. The most recent poll seems to be from the Register in February, where Siegelman was losing to Riley & Moore. But in some other polls, the numbers were tied or even showed Siegelman ahead.

Dem. Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley is also running for governor, and that Register poll from February showed her beating both Riley and Moore (the latter by a bigger margin, interestingly). Another Register poll in January showed Baxley trouncing Seigelman in the primary.

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 10, 2005 10:06 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment