The Alabama Senate race appears to be reverting to a fundamental political truth: A state that is one of the most Republican in the nation is likely to vote Republican.
There’s still the possibility of some new and devastating sexual misconduct revelation about GOP candidate Roy Moore. But there’s an increasing sense that the old and devastating sexual misconduct revelations are receding into the distant past of two weeks ago.
It appears the improvement in Moore’s fortunes is being driven by a gradual change in the Alabama electorate’s view of the allegations against him.
Part of the change seems to be that many voters don’t view Moore’s accusers in the same way that many media figures do. Media reports portray overwhelming evidence against Moore. The message is that the sheer number of accusers means at least some must be telling the truth.
But it seems likely that some Alabama voters don’t see nine accusers. They see one.
That one accuser is Leigh Corfman, who says Moore sexually assaulted her in 1979, when she was 14 years old. Published in The Washington Post, Corfman’s was the first and most serious allegation against Moore, and it remains the most serious today. Corfman has seemed credible in media appearances, and Moore has not been able to refute her story.
But the Post account also included the stories of three other women who said Moore asked them out when they were 16, 17 and 18 years old, and whose cases against Moore did not involve any physical abuse or coercion.
Then there was Beverly Young Nelson, who said Moore assaulted her in 1977, when she was 16. Nelson made the mistake of retaining celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred when she made her allegations, and she also mishandled Moore’s contention that a signature in a yearbook she produced, ostensibly by Moore, might be a fake. Both moves reduced her credibility.
So that is five accusers right there. It is likely that voters pushed four of them to the side, leaving Corfman.
Then there was a woman who said Moore grabbed her behind in 1991, when she was 28. A woman who said Moore asked her out in 1982, when she was 17. A woman who said Moore asked her out repeatedly in 1977, when she was 18, and gave her an unwanted, “forceful” kiss. And finally, a woman who said Moore asked her out several times in 1977, when she was 22.
Asked her out several times when she was 22 years old? That’s not the most outrageous allegation in the news these days. Four more accusers, some with very thin stories.
That makes nine. The point is not that none of the accusers is telling the truth. Perhaps some, or all, are. What appears to have happened is that one very serious allegation was followed by a series of less serious, or less credible, accusations that in the end did not have the cumulative effect that Moore’s opponents perhaps hoped.
The bottom line is, instead of Roy Moore versus nine accusers, in many voters’ minds, the story is Roy Moore versus one accuser, Leigh Corfman. And that is where the mental calculations begin.
Corfman’s allegation is serious; she was, after all, 14 years old. But it’s not airtight. And it was in 1979 — 38 years ago. Memories fade, or change. And even if it is all true, has Moore changed in the nearly four decades since?
Finally, many conservative voters see Jones as a doctrinaire liberal whose pro-abortion rights views on abortion would likely be enough to ensure defeat in an Alabama race. And so Alabama Republicans are more and more assessing the situation as Alabama Republicans. It would be no surprise if they vote that way Tuesday.