There are three big reasons why Roy Moore’s defeat of President Donald Trump-endorsed Senator Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary on Tuesday matters.
RIP, Trump’s Magic: Sure, Trump is the least popular president of the polling era in terms of his first 250 days. But Republicans were always going to be hesitant to dismiss the president’s popularity — especially in Republican primaries — in part because Trump’s nomination and election was such a surprise, and in part because Trump did it with awful poll numbers. Trump’s utter inability to move the polls despite being very visible in his support for Strange will remove some, and perhaps quite a bit, of the belief among Republican elites that Trump has some sort of special connection with their constituents. Indeed, Moore won by a larger margin in the runoff than he did in the first-round election. Which means they’ll be less likely to give him the benefit of the doubt when deciding whether to do what he wants.
It doesn’t help that Democrats picked up two more state legislative seats on Tuesday. That doesn’t really tell us anything more than what Trump’s approval ratings say, but we’re talking here about the perceptions of Trump’s popularity.
Cracks in the Senate Majority: Not only did Strange lose, but Tennessee Senator Bob Corker announced on Tuesday he will not run for re-election. Both states would have been absolutely safe for Republicans with those candidates on the ballot. Without them they’re still very likely to go Republican, but it’s possible to imagine Democratic upsets. Roy Moore really should be an awful general election candidate, albeit still a solid favorite to win anyway in the Alabama special this December.