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AAA  Nov. 11, 2017 2:32 AM ET
Moore's Senate race brings back memories of late GOP fumbles
By THOMAS BEAUMONT and JEFF AMY, Associated Press THE ASSOCIATED PRESS STATEMENT OF NEWS VALUES AND PRINCIPLES 
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FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2017, file photo, former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks in Montgomery, Ala. Moore emphatically rejected increasing pressure to abandon his Senate bid on Friday, Nov. 10, as fears grew among GOP leaders that a once-safe Senate seat was in jeopardy just a month before a special election. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
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(AP) — Tentative as it may be, Alabama Democrats' chances of ending their 26-year exile in the Senate took a step forward this week.

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Republican candidate Roy Moore lift — though hardly guarantee — Democrat Doug Jones' hopes of winning the state's special election on Dec. 12.

The sexually charged nature of the allegations, resounding condemnation by national Republicans and defiance by Moore and his supporters gave a once good bet for Republicans an eerie resemblance to recent races the party has blown in other GOP-heavy states.

National Republicans were feeling a bit of deja vu, recalling lost Senate races in GOP-leaning states. Todd Akin's suggestion in 2012 that "legitimate rape" rarely caused pregnancy cost him Missouri's Senate race. That same year, Republican Richard Mourdock in GOP-heavy Indiana lost after saying that when a woman becomes pregnant after a rape, "it's something God intended."

In 2010, Republicans chose tea party insurgent Christine O'Donnell in Delaware, who responded to claims that she had once admitted practicing witchcraft by saying, "I'm not a witch." Also that year, Nevada Republicans chose conservative outsider Sharon Angle, who vowed to "take out" her opponent, then-Majority Leader Harry Reid, and argued that the separation of church and state did not arise from the Constitution.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Moore, a moral crusader twice removed from the Alabama Supreme Court, had sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl decades ago.

The allegations roiled a race in which Moore had the edge after beating interim Sen. Luther Strange, the choice of President Donald Trump, who stood by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month as McConnell warned about picking candidates who couldn't win general elections.

Trump's former senior White House strategist, Steve Bannon, waging a crusade for anti-establishment Republicans, had endorsed Moore.

"I draw the line at sexual scandals," 68-year-old Republican Carolyn Griffin of Calera, a southern Birmingham suburb, said while walking her dog in Alabaster's Veterans Park.

Still, Alabama Republicans were yielding little in a place where their strength has only grown since Howell Heflin, in 1992, was the last Alabama Democrat elected to the Senate. Today, they control the Statehouse, all statewide elective offices and seven of eight House seats.

Republican National Committeeman Paul Reynolds described the allegations against Moore as "sinister." ''This is a firestorm designed to shipwreck a campaign in Alabama," he said, arguing that devout Republicans were naturally skeptical of the Post's report.

Former state Republican Party Chairman Marty Connors said he expected the impact of the allegations to be limited.

"It will affect what I call your really, really moderate Republican voters," Connors said.

But that's a problem for those like Griffin, in the eight largest Alabama counties, whose populations equal the remaining 59.

For instance, Strange beat Moore in Shelby County in September. In 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney collected more votes there than Moore, who was running for state Supreme Court.

Polls taken before the Post's story showed the race close or Moore with a slight lead but with less than 50 percent of the vote, typically a warning sign for Republicans in Alabama.

"There was a universe in Alabama that was uncomfortable with him, all while Republicans were gaining in Alabama," Birmingham-based Democratic pollster John Anzalone said. "These allegations now give these voters a reason to vote against him or stay home."

That might be where once-likely Moore voter Mark Victory lands. He might be swayed to oppose Moore with more proof, but "I'm not going to vote for his opponent," Victory said.

Democrats quietly stuck to their plans Friday, canvassing voters in a Birmingham Walmart parking lot, for instance. Jones' weekslong television advertising remained positive, with biographical spots airing about the former U.S. attorney.

However, Jones supporters sought to capitalize by tweeting links to fundraising websites hoping to rekindle Jones' post-runoff fundraising boom which pushed him over $1.3 million in the third quarter.

Jones, too, stuck to his plan, reaching out to black voters with civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis in a majority-black suburb of Mobile. On Saturday, he planned to be in Tuscaloosa, home to a large number of persuadable white voters.

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Beaumont reported from Des Moines, Iowa. Associated Press writer Kim Chandler in Montgomery, Alabama, contributed to this report.

Associated Press
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