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AL Senate Race in Voters' Hands        12/12 06:29

   Depending on who is making the case, Alabama's special Senate election 
Tuesday is about either continuing the "Trump miracle" in Washington or 
allowing "decency" to prevail back home.

   BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- Depending on who is making the case, Alabama's 
special Senate election Tuesday is about either continuing the "Trump miracle" 
in Washington or allowing "decency" to prevail back home.

   At the center is Roy Moore --- "Judge Moore," to his supporters. The 
70-year-old Republican was twice ousted as state Supreme Court chief justice 
after flouting federal law, and now he's attempting a political resurrection 
amid accusations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

   In Moore's path is Democrat Doug Jones, 63, a former U.S. attorney best 
known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen who killed four black girls in a 
1963 church bombing.

   The winner will take the seat previously held by Attorney General Jeff 
Sessions. Republicans hold a narrow 52-48 Senate majority. A routine election 
in Republican-dominated Alabama wouldn't be expected to alter that balance, 
because Alabamians haven't sent a Democrat to the upper chamber of Congress 
since 1992. President Donald Trump notched a 28-point win here in 2016 and 
remains popular in the state.

   But Moore's baggage leaves the outcome enough in doubt that both Trump and 
his Democratic predecessor, Barack Obama, have weighed in with last-minute 
robocalls trying to sway voters.

   The intensity also has spawned a steady stream of fake news stories that 
fill social media feeds of interested people in Alabama and beyond. An 
Associated Press analysis, in cooperation with Facebook, counted as many as 200 
false or misleading reports heading into the weekend. One website claimed one 
of the women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct had recanted. She did 
not. Meanwhile, Moore's detractors took to social media to claim he had written 
in a 2011 textbook that women shouldn't hold elected office. He didn't.

   In his final pitch before polls open, Jones called the choice a "crossroads" 
and asked that "decency" prevail.

   "We've had this history in the past, going down the road that ... has not 
been productive," Jones said. "We've lagged behind in industry. We've lagged 
behind in education. We've lagged behind in health care. It's time we take the 
road that's going to get us on the path to progress."

   At his own election eve rally, Moore again denied all the allegations, 
calling them "disgusting" and offering voters a clear measure: "If you don't 
believe in my character, don't vote for me." Earlier in the day, Moore cast 
himself as the victim. "It's just been hard, a hard campaign," he said.

   For Alabama, the outcome could be defining.

   Democrats and moderate Republicans see an opportunity to reject a politician 
who is already regular fodder for late-night television and enough of a 
curiosity that Chinese leader Xi Jinping paused a presidential meeting in 
Beijing recently to ask Trump through an interpreter, "Who is Roy Moore?"

   Alabama's senior senator, Richard Shelby, confirmed publicly that he wrote 
in a "distinguished Alabama Republican" rather than vote for Moore.

   Many Republicans, however, see an opportunity to defend the state's 
conservative, evangelical bent in the face of unfair liberal criticism while 
delivering another victory for Trump and sending an anti-establishment senator 
into a federal government that has been reflexively unpopular among Alabama 
majorities for generations.

   Trump's campaign architect and former White House adviser Steve Bannon told 
Moore supporters Monday evening that the race is a "national election" that 
will determine whether the "Trump miracle" continues. Moore says he is aligned 
with the president and he makes similar arguments to Trump, blasting "the 
elite" in the "swamp" of Washington, D.C.

   For Jones to win, he must build an atypical coalition, maximizing turnout 
among African-American voters and white liberals who often don't combine for 
more than 40 percent of the electorate, while coaxing votes from enough white 
Republicans who can't pull the lever for Moore.

   One of Jones' celebrity backers framed the choice as being much less 
complicated.

   "I love Alabama," said Leeds native and former NBA basketball star Charles 
Barkley, "but at some point we've got to draw a line in the sand and say, 
'We're not a bunch of damn idiots.'"

   Polls open at 7 a.m. CST.


(KA)

 
 
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