Here are two statistics you're going to hear a lot between now and Dec. 12, the day that Alabama will hold a special election to fill Jeff Sessions' Senate seat:
- Alabama hasn't elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1990. If you don't count Richard Shelby, who eventually switched parties and became a Republican, the state hasn't elected a non-incumbent Democrat to the Senate since 1978.
- The last Democrat to win Alabama in a presidential election was Jimmy Carter.
Here's another statistic:
Here are the caveats that must be caveat-ed:
- It's just one poll!
- Donald Trump's popularity in Alabama has fallen off quite a bit since the election, but voters there still approve of his performance by a double-digit margin, so it's not like Moore is swimming against the tide as a GOP candidate.
- As Daily Kos points out, no one has run any negative ads against Doug Jones yet. He's known for being the prosecutor who, in the early aughts, secured the convictions of two men for the "Four Little Girls" 1963 Birmingham church bombing. But he's otherwise a bit of a blank slate.
Still, a 5-point lead is not a big lead for a Republican in Alabama. As Slate's Jim Newell wrote in August, Trump's relative unpopularity is not the only issue at play here; the state's GOP has been shooting itself in the foot too:
Since the beginning of 2016, the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Roy Moore—now the leading candidate in the GOP Senate primary—was removed from his position; the speaker of the state House, Mike Hubbard, was sentenced to jail for violating state ethics laws; and the governor, Robert Bentley, resigned amid a sex scandal and misdemeanor campaign finance violations. A couple of months before his resignation, Bentley had appointed the state attorney general who was investigating him, Luther Strange, to temporarily fill Sessions’ seat.
Moore did win the Republican primary, but the Republican "brand" may not be at its strongest right now with the Republican-leaning independents who would otherwise give him an easy win in the general. Will those voters ultimately shock the world by electing a guy named Doug to the Senate? Only time will tell.