Why Roy Moore Might Win
(This is the first of two posts speculating on Moore's Republican primary gov. bid -- tomorrow "Why Roy Moore Might Lose" )
Roy Moore is a known quantity with an established record. Everyone in the state is familiar with at least some part of Moore's 10 Commandments saga. Moore probably starts off with a base of 35-45% of the GOP primary electorate. The positive thing about Moore's admittedly polarizing record is that there is that a large minority of voters who will support him no matter what. Moore can leave the motivation of his base (using the monument issue) up to his allies and focus on appealing to the remaining 5-15% he needs to secure the nomination.
If Moore stays with the themes outlined in his announcement he will be making a serious play for mainstream GOP primary voters. Government reform and fiscal conservatism have almost universal appeal to the GOP base, even if they don't agree with Moore's 10 Commandments fixation. Similarly Moore looks likely to focus on illegal immigration as part of his platform. It is possible that Moore could use that issue to wedge the suburban GOP voters from the Riley camp. If Moore can make inroads in suburban Birmingham, then Riley will be in serious trouble. Hoover, for example, should be solid Riley territory, but that city has been grappling with issues relating to immigration and a Moore appeal on that issue might allow Moore to win the votes of Republicans who have previously rolled their eyes at his religious rhetoric.
Also Moore's candidacy could very well energize people who don't normally vote in GOP primaries (or at all). Moore has shown surprising popularity among minority voters and rural Democrats for a Republican. Even if Riley can win among the traditional GOP electorate, a Moore candidacy may very well alter the primary math and sweep him to victory.
Also, it is possible that a third serious candidate could enter the race. Harri Anne Smith will announce her plans in December and the April filing deadline gives other candidates (credible or not) plenty of time to throw their hat in the ring. The more candidates in the primary, the more chance the nomination will need to be decided in a runoff. Traditionally challengers gain an advantage in a runoff and Moore's loyal followers could win the day in what is usually a lower turnout affair than the primary.
Finally, Roy Moore has been in this position before. He ran for Chief Justice in 2000 against the GOP establishment's hand-picked candidate, Justice Harold See. Moore not only defeated See without a runoff, but embarrassed the business wing of the Republican party. Bob Riley will be tougher than Harold See, but Roy Moore has beaten party bigwigs before and he thinks he can do it again.
Check back tomorrow for "Why Roy Moore Might Lose".