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Trump Rallies In Alabama For Luther Strange


President Trump was in Huntsville, Ala., last night to rally support for Senator Luther Strange. Senator Strange faces former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore in the state's Republican primary on Tuesday. John Archibald has been following that race closely. He's a columnist for the Alabama Media Group and joins us now.

John, thanks very much for being with us.

JOHN ARCHIBALD: Thanks for having me, Scott.

SIMON: Quite an animated rally, it sounds like, last night. But let's try and concentrate on the Senate race that brought President Trump to town.


SIMON: Both of these candidates come with what we call baggage, don't they?

ARCHIBALD: Right. We have Roy Moore, who has a long history of baggage. He's been twice booted off the state supreme court for defying federal court orders. And Luther Strange has been more of a conventional candidate but really ran into kind of a buzz saw because people became really angry when he, as attorney general, was appointed to this empty Senate seat while he was supposedly - or his office was investigating the former governor, who has now been deposed. So there's been a lot more anger about that than people anticipated.

SIMON: Because it looked like he was taking a fall in response to the Senate seat? Yeah.

ARCHIBALD: It looked like he went to the governor and said, you know, I'd like the Senate seat while supposedly investigating him, which people say - hey, you know, if the DA did that to a drug dealer, we would be outraged. So that kind of led to this real sort of animosity against him that was really unexpected. A lot of people think that if he had just declined the appointment that he would have been the frontrunner. But that baggage has been heavy for him.

SIMON: And is that why - I gather there was some surprise in Alabama when President Trump endorsed Luther Strange.

ARCHIBALD: Well, the real surprise comes from the fact that, obviously, Alabama is a very Trump state. And most of the people who are the keys to that grassroots Trump movement here are more in line with Roy Moore, perhaps, than they are with Luther Strange, who is an establishment sort of - what they would call here, sort of a silk-stocking Republican. And so there's that little division there in which a lot of the people who are attending the rally, for instance, last night to see Trump are probably not going to vote for Luther Strange.

SIMON: Despite the president's appearance, you believe?

ARCHIBALD: Despite the president's appearance. And the president last night, you know, went ahead and got ahead of that a little bit saying, you know, if Luther Strange loses, they'll say this is a Trump failure - talking about the media. But, I mean, that is what it's kind of coming down to to look at. I mean, how much - what is more important to these people now in Alabama now, what Trump says or what they feel about Roy Moore and Luther Strange?

SIMON: The winner on Tuesday will go on to contend with Doug Jones, Democrat, in the special election in December. As you note, John, Alabama's not only become a very Republican state but very much, according to polls, supportive of President Trump. What kind of stance does - chance does Doug Jones stand?

ARCHIBALD: Well, you know, conventional wisdom would say not much. Some polls, if you believe polls - and I don't put much stock in them right now - indicate that he has a better chance than you would think. Democrats really want Roy Moore to win, not because they want him in the Senate but because they think his ceiling is lower. And with just the right pitch across the plate, they think they might have, you know, a swinger's chance - that Doug might have a swinger's chance against Roy Moore because he is kind of a middle-of-the-road sort of reasonable sort of guy that can appeal to people, particularly with the right pitch across that plate. And they think this might be the screwball to do it.

SIMON: (Laughter) You said screwball, didn't you? All right.

ARCHIBALD: I did. I did, yeah. I mean...

SIMON: Well, you're columnist.

ARCHIBALD: ...There are a lot of people who - I mean, he appeals to a large number of people. I mean...

SIMON: Yeah.

ARCHIBALD: ...Not a large number - he appeals strongly to a good number of people. But his ceiling is very low, and he has - outside of his supreme court race, has not really done that well in state (unintelligible) elections in the past.

SIMON: John Archibald of Alabama Media, thanks so much for being with us.

ARCHIBALD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.