For Alabama Voters, a ‘Choice as Clear as Mud’

If I was giving free advice to the Strange campaign, I’d recommend they follow one specific approach from our playbook: Run the runoff like it’s a general election. Explain to voters that the winner on September 26 will be the next senator from Alabama. Highlight the seriousness of this primary choice and the finality of the outcome. Don’t just depend on negative ads from D.C.-based groups to get you over the finish line—have your candidate promote an optimistic message, with less anger and more reason and promise. Luther Strange cannot out-Roy Moore Roy Moore.

The Strange campaign also has to find new voters. Alabama, like Mississippi, doesn’t have party registration and as long as you didn’t vote in the Democratic primary, you are eligible to vote in the Republican runoff. There are thousands of voters in Alabama who fall into this category.

We focused our runoff campaign on four key target groups we knew we could turn out for the runoff, bringing out tens of thousands of new Cochran votes: African-American voters who had historically supported Thad in a greater way than any other Mississippi Republican; middle-class white voters in the Delta who are surrounded by an agricultural economy that Senator Cochran had fought for over decades in Congress; college-educated voters who viewed Thad as more optimistic and reasoned than his opponent; and voters who felt their community needed Cochran’s support and the influence that came from his powerful role as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Strange doesn’t have the same deep history of serving his state in the U.S. Senate. So in the remaining few days before the runoff, his campaign will have to find its own unique ways to win over new voters. I’d look for people who might be swayed by President Trump’s endorsement but who didn’t vote in the primary’s first round; those who prefer the more thoughtful and less-controversial approach of a senator in the mode of a Richard Shelby or a Jeff Sessions; or those who simply don’t like Roy Moore and his brand of populism.

As for Moore, my advice for his campaign is pretty simple: Keep your base motivated, turn them out in the most organized way you can muster, stay hungry and keep working hard. Protect your candidate down the stretch and maintain a low profile by seeking out less earned media, holding smaller events and avoiding the temptation to answer every question the press throws your way. To use an old Southern saying, “keep it between the ditches” in the final days, and you’ll give your candidate a great chance to win.

Austin Barbour