For a GOP incumbent in a deep-red, deep South state, Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., is off to a really rocky start, it may be because of all of the political baggage he brings with him.
Polling conducted last week by potential primary challenger Republican Congressman Mo Brooks shows Strange currently sitting behind former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore by a whopping 10 points.
This could be because of several factors, not least of which is the eyebrow-raising path Strange, the former Alabama attorney general, took to getting his temporary seat in the first place. CR’s Chris Pandolfo explains:
Strange was appointed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ former Senate seat by disgraced former Gov. Robert Bentley before he resigned last month. Many see the appointment as a corrupt deal struck between a governor, Bentley, mired in scandal and the state attorney general, Strange, prosecuting him.
That kind of thing doesn’t go away quickly, and especially not in a couple of months. As a recent op-ed at AL.com says of the situation, “all the money in Washington won't cover up that Strange Bentley stench any time soon.”
Additionally, it would appear that in Strange’s short tenure in Washington, he’s already managed to immerse himself fairly well in the GOP side of the D.C. swamp. He’s mustered the support of the Republican establishment, which has rallied to his cause to ensure that the sitting senator’s more conservative challengers don’t remove him from his seat.
As Politico Pro recently reported, the Senate primary has seen the return of the National Republican Senatorial Committee’s (NRSC) “black list,” a practice not seen in a few years where the senatorial arm of the GOP threatens consulting and marketing firms away from conservative primary challengers by threatening to never do business with them again.
A notable previous example of this was back in 2013, when now-Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin challenged then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for his seat; Jamestown Associates worked with the Senate Conservatives Fund and the NRSC threatened them, in turn.
Then there’s all the money Strange is taking from GOP establishment types to produce and buy media for an ad that portrays him as someone who cleans up corruption and cronyism, which would appear laughably ironic to anyone troubled by the first two mentioned factors.
Finally, Strange also has to contend with the juxtaposition of touting his conservative credentials while having left his now-opponent Roy Moore out to dry during the politicized post-Obergefell, gay marriage ordeal in which Moore was removed from the bench in a drawn-out judicial coup d’état.
With an early primary election coming up on Aug. 18, a runoff scheduled for late September, and – finally – a general election just two weeks before Christmas, it looks like Luther Strange has a long few months ahead of him.
Editor's note: This article has been updated as a previous version attributed the piece to the wrong author.