Primaries, election are quickly approaching
By By Steve Flowers
It may not seem like it but we are heading down the home stretch in the governor’s race. The Republican and Democratic primaries are only six weeks away. On June 1 we will separate the wheat from the chaff in the Republican field of candidates. With four viable candidates on the stage it will be hard for any one candidate to get the over 50 percent needed to be the nominee. Therefore, the challenge is to make the runoff.
The two frontrunners will face-off six weeks later on July 13 to determine the final GOP nominee for the November 2 General Election. This six-week runoff span is a new twist. Historically we have had a three week runoff contest. However, the time has been expanded this year to accommodate our soldiers stationed overseas and allow them to fully participate in the electoral process. This will make the primary even more expensive for the final two participants in the GOP fray.
However, this race is more similar to a Sunday school picnic than a fray. The Republican primary has been very cordial up to this point. The candidates have participated in multiple forums around the state and treated each other with kid gloves. They have all been in basic agreement on the issues. Their positions and platitudes are basically the same. They appear to be like a church choir singing in unison. Their media ads are geared toward selling themselves positively without attacking their opposition.
That may be because they do not know who their opponent is at this point. Besides being the most civil primary I have ever seen, it is also the quietest and least combative on record. It is almost like there is no race happening. The voters seem disinterested and are not particularly excited about any of the candidates. My guess is that at least one third of all GOP primary voters are undecided at this time.
I will venture a guess as to where the field is currently positioned with the final six-week sprint approaching. Roy Moore has a solid 22 percent of the vote and that will probably remain the same. The Moore voters are committed and unwavering. However, if you are not for him now you will probably not be for him on June 1. He has so little money that some of his people do not even know he is running. You can actually ask some folks who they are for and they will say, “I was for Moore but I think he dropped out.” With no money the best he can hope for is to keep his 22 percent.
In early fundraising Bradley Byrne eclipsed the field by raising over $2.6 million and setting a fundraising record. He is obviously the candidate of big business. He has gained traction with an early media buy and is probably sitting at 22 percent.
Tim James and Robert Bentley are probably bunched together at 10 percent. Tim James is in somewhat of a conundrum. He is helped by his daddy but at the same time he is hurt by him. More than once I have heard someone say, “You know I like that boy, but I just didn’t like his father as governor.” As you will recall, Fob James got only 42 percent of the vote as an incumbent governor in his last race.
Robert Bentley is likeable and has low negatives. Although people seem to like him, they do not believe he can win. His situation reminds me of an old country saying that my old probate judge used when I asked him about a candidate in a race. He would say, “he just ain’t heavy enough.”
Tim James has loaned his campaign close to $3 million. Campaign reports will reveal that he and Byrne have over $2 million in the bank to spend in the last month of the campaign. Byrne and James have also been able to afford well-managed professional teams of national experts. These pros know how to make their media buys reap benefits. Therefore, with their vast financial advantage Byrne and James should bring home the bacon and split the lion’s share of the undecideds, which presently accounts for about 34 percent of the vote.
Thus, my unscientific totally intuitive guess on the outcome of the June 1 GOP primary is that Bradley Byrne will lead with 36 percent. Tim James and Roy Moore will be in a dogfight to make the runoff. I believe they will be in a dead heat at 24 percent each. If it is this close, it may take several days to determine who is in the runoff with Byrne.
Dr. Robert Bentley will finish with a respectable 12 percent. His endorsement will be worth coveting in the runoff.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 75 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.