Sunday, January 16, 2005

Make way for the Granite Calf

Here we go again.

Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, master of symbolic demagoguery and regressive thought, leads Gov. Bob Riley by 8 percentage points in a hypothetical GOP gubernatorial primary in a poll published in today's Mobile Register. The poll also showed Moore with a 72 percent favorability rating, which means he's somehow managed to convince nearly three-quarters of Alabamians that he's a sincere guy who isn't exploiting people's deeply held religious faith for personal gain. As pollster Keith Nicholls said of the GOP nomination, "It's Moore's for the taking."

The poll indicates that the ultra-conservative wing of the state Republican Party is still upset with Riley's failed $1.2 billion tax plan in 2003, but despite Moore's 8-percentage-point lead, there's still good news for Riley. For one thing, the election is almost two years away, giving him time to shore up support among the social conservatives within his party and ensure that voters from the pro-Riley business wing turn out in huge numbers. Also, unlike the incumbent, Moore has yet to enunciate an opinion on anything unrelated to granite monuments or anti-segregation measures.

If Moore wins the Republican nomination, the only hope to keep him out of office would be for Democrats to nominate Lt. Gov. Lucy Baxley. She has a background as a successful real estate agent, which would endear her to moderate Republicans, and I could see her gaining strong support among women eager to elect only the second female governor in state history.

Former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman, who beat criminal conspiracy charges without a trial last year, likely will try to regain the office he barely lost in 2002. Despite the dismissal of the criminal case against Siegelman, however, the albatross of all of his administration's highly publicized ethics scandals still hang around his neck and would be easy pickings for television attack ads. Democrats would be wise to give the nod to Baxley instead.

Unfortunately, Moore is in the driver's seat in the 2006 governor's race right now. Fortunately, the green flag just dropped, and we're hundreds of laps away from the finish line.

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