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Monday, October 17, 2005

AL-Gov: Riley (R) in the Lead

Posted by DavidNYC

Last week, I wrote about the Republican primary in the Alabama governor's race. A new poll showed incumbent Republican Bob Riley taking a big lead over maniac ex-judge Roy Moore. Today, the same outfit - a combined venture of the University of South Alabama and the Mobile Register - releases polling on hypothetical general election matchups. And it doesn't look pretty for our side (registered voters, Feb. in parens):

Baxley: 33 (39)
Riley: 44 (35)
Undecided: 23 (26)

Siegelman 31 (34)
Riley: 46 (43)
Undecided: 23 (23)

Baxley: 44 (44)
Moore: 37 (38)
Undecided: 19 (18)

Siegelman: 40 (34)
Moore: 40 (44)
Undecided: 20 (22)
(MoE: ±5%)

On the Dem side, it's Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley vs. form Gov. Don Siegelman. In the last poll on the Dem primary (all the way back in January), Baxley led Siegelman 45-31. The latter evidently remains unpopular - he was indicted last year for allegedly participating in a bid-rigging scheme (though the charges were dismissed by a judge just as the case went to trial). I would expect Baxley to win the primary.

The February head-to-head results between Baxley and Riley were heartening, but man, that's a big delta - Baxley goes from +4 to -11. Why might this have happened?

My thesis in my earlier post on this race was that if the conservative base were truly deserting Bush over the Miers nomination, Riley would suffer because disaffected wingnuts would flock to the ideologically "purer" Moore. The earlier primary poll showed that the opposite was happening, and Riley seems not to have suffered at all in this general election poll.

The main alternate explanation for Riley's resurgence against Moore was that Riley's approval went up in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, just as neighboring MS Governor Haley Barbour's did. (Poor Kathleen Blanco of LA seems to be the exception.) I hope this is the case, because impressions like that fade as people return to their lives and their everyday problems. (Bush saw a spike when Saddam was captured. That must seem like ages ago to him.)

We're a long way out, and I'm confident that Baxley, should she be our nominee, can run a strong race against Riley. I'd bet that the truth lies somewhere in between the February and October polls - in other words, the race will be very, very tight. And this is in Alabama, which just goes to show that you should never, ever write off entire segments of the country. Hell, even Bush only has a 51% approval rating here. A bit of a Dem tide in 2006 could definitely put this seat in our hands.

UPDATE: Reader John e-mails me with another poll on the primaries taken just days ago by SUSA. The Dem side shows Seigelman crushing Baxley, 54-24. That result is so wildly different from the January Register poll I mentioned above that I'm really not sure what to make of the situation, except to say that 10 months is a long time in politics. But if this poll is right, then my tentative prediction that Baxley would win the primary is probably shot.

The GOP side is even crazier. SUSA has Riley over Moore, 44-38. That's a hell of a lot closer than the 44-25 Riley lead that the Register claimed just a week ago. My head is spinning. Any thoughts?

Posted at 02:51 PM in 2006 Elections - State, Alabama | Technorati

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I think you're misunderstanding what the conservative crack up is all about. In Alabama, Riley was crucified in 2003 when he pushed hard for a tax increase to balance the state books and fund education, prisons, and mental health facilities. Bumper stickers saying "Bush Giveth, Riley Taketh Away" proliferated.

Two years and a half years later, Riley must look like the most fiscally responsible Republican alive. Bush giveth nothing but deficits, while Riley tried to proactively govern in a way that would fully fund moral initiatives like mental health as well as balance the state budget.

I think that's where the real GOP split is happening. There are those Republicans who want sanity in governance and those who don't. Riley appeals to the sanity crowd, and it remains to be seen whether Baxley can run a campaign that draws those folks to her.

I think what this election will show ultimately is the relative weakness of Christian Conservatives. I think that if Riley wins the primary pretty handily, it's going to be a major shock to the religious right system.

Incidentally, next door in Georgia, Ralph Reed is facing mounting difficulties as more Abramoff-related material drips out. This may be the election that sends the religious right cockroaches scurrying away from the light of electoral rejection.

Posted by: shamanic [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 05:15 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Shamanic: I have no doubt you are correct. In fact, in my earlier post, I opined that there was no genuine split between the conservative "base" and Republicans in general (or any split is very minimal and mostly confined to a few loud-mouthed activists). The Riley-Moore poll was, to me, proof of that.

P.S. Did you get my e-mail I sent earlier today?

Posted by: DavidNYC [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 05:26 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

What struck me most about last year's Presidential election was that Alabama had become the most Republican state of the Old Confederacy (excluding Oklahoma). Bush won by more than 25 points, as opposed to 13 points in 2000, a year where South Carolina and Mississippi (and even Kentucky) were more Republican than Alabama. With that in mind, I've yet to see any examples that Alabama is trending towards the "sanity crowd". Perhaps alot has changed in 11 months, but Alabama strikes me as our most difficult challenge in the South. If either Baxley or Siegelman prevails, we should get on the first flight to Birmingham to find out how on Earth they pulled it off.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 06:15 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I think there is a split happening, but Miers is only a symptom, not a cause. I think that Christian Conservatives and other faith components of the religious right have convinced themselves that they are the driving force behind Republican success and now they don't want to settle for proxies and stealth candidates. They want their Roy Moores and Ralph Reeds and Tom Coburns in high office.

The business wing, many of whom are evangelicals and people of faith, are not interested in religious tests or religious bigotry in their officials. They want an efficient, transparent, pro-growth government.

Miers is the national face of this fight, as the intellectual conservative movement squares off against fundamentalists over issues of jurisprudence. The Alabama fight will be much more naked, as Georgia's lieutenant governor race may end up being as well.

Hold out for a very dirty primary fight on the GOP side in Alabama. It's the only way I can really see Baxley getting an edge in the general race. If she can quit bickering with Siegelman, she may end up looking like the candidate who can rise above the nastiness and bad blood of the GOP.

Posted by: shamanic [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 07:16 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Oh, and David, I did your get e-mail, thanks.

Posted by: shamanic [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 17, 2005 07:20 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment