Projected polls in primary right on mark
By By Steve Flowers
The Primary results were very much exactly as expected. There were absolutely no surprises. The polling data projected was right on the mark. Gov. Bob Riley defeated Roy Moore 67% to 33%, the polls had pointed to a 70 to 30 margin. Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley outdistanced Don Siegelman 60% to 36%, about what the tracking polls foresaw. Therefore, as expected, you will have a Bob Riley vs. Lucy Baxley contest in November for the brass ring of Alabama politics, the Governor's chair. Although their victories were predicted they were nevertheless both impressive winners on June 7th.
You may ask the question, who was the biggest winner, who got the best jump towards their November showdown? Without a doubt that distinction goes to Lucy Baxley because the only drama that played out was the adamant and defiant refusal of Roy Moore to endorse his fellow Republican in the November election.
Moore declared that he could not endorse or support Bob Riley. This may have come as a surprise to many but if you have been an observer of Roy Moore you realize that he is not your typical politician and certainly dances to a different drummer. I have argued for months that Moore's supporters would not join hands and lockstep join the Riley team. Moore's stance only confirmed my belief that these two would not kiss and make up. Moore's reason was that Riley was too indebted to special interest money and in fact it was this money that Riley used to drown Moore.
Although Riley outspent Moore 10 to 1, the deeper difference between the two is that Riley did not come to Moore's defense over his Ten Commandments ouster the way that Moore wanted and expected. That is the primary reason that Moore took his Don Quixote tilting at windmills attempt at the Governor's race. It is somewhat amazing that he garnered 33% of the vote against an incumbent Governor with a good economy and a 10 to 1 financial advantage. The battle was also a long anticipated showdown over the heart and soul of the Republican Party. The schism between the business side and the religious side of the party has been brewing like a sizzling teapot. This was an epic battle and as most experts suggested, the religious right makes up about one third of the Republican Primary vote.
Moore's decision not to support Riley will hurt. His supporters are ardent and they heard the message. This does not mean that all of Moore's fans will say amen and join with Democrat Lucy Baxley, but it does mean that some will. However, the real problem is that a good many will stay home. In a state that is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans in a gubernatorial year this is not good news for Bob Riley. In addition, the majority of Moore stalwarts are in rural Alabama which is where Lucy Baxley has been campaigning full time for three years and where she excels and did the best.
In stark contrast to Moore's overt refusal to endorse Riley, Siegelman not only endorsed Lucy but left no doubt that he planned to campaign full steam ahead against Riley in the days to come. Siegelman will rally hardcore Democrats behind Lucy and may very well be able to be the bad guy attacking Riley. Lucy came out fighting in her victory speech June 6th. She first acknowledged God, obviously courting Moore supporters, and then lambasted the Governor for his $1.2 billion tax offering in 2003.
In depth polling data will reveal that this tax debacle is still Riley's Achilles heel. There is a reservoir of hardcore Republican voters that will not forgive him for this move and there are also signs in the voting results in some silk stocking voting enclaves that they are not overjoyed about the property tax on their high priced homes being reappraised annually by the Riley administration.
In short, it looks like the Governor's race begins as a 50/50 horserace as we head to November.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama's leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 66 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us <http://www.steveflowers.us/>