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Roy Moore and Doug Jones deadlocked in Alabama Senate race, new poll shows

Alabama voters might look past sexual misconduct allegations against Moore and put him in office anyway.

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GOP Alabama Senate Candidate Roy Moore Holds Campaign Rally
Roy Moore at a campaign rally.
Joe Buglewicz/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covered business and economics for Vox and wrote the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

A new poll shows a neck-and-neck race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s US Senate special election contest for Attorney General Jeff Session’s vacated seat. It’s another indicator voters might look past sexual misconduct allegations against Moore and put him in office anyway.

With fewer than two weeks left in the race, Jones has a slight edge over Moore, according to a Washington Post-Schar School poll released on Saturday. Fifty percent of respondents said they support Jones, a former federal prosecutor, while 47 percent said they support Moore, a former Alabama chief judge.

The poll, conducted among 739 likely Alabama voters from November 27 to 30, has a 4.5-point margin of error. The election, in other words, is anybody’s game.

Alabama’s Senate special election has drawn national attention in light of allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore. In November, the Washington Post published the accounts of four women with stories about Moore, including Leigh Corfman’s, who said that she was just 14 when she engaged in two sexually inappropriate meetings with Moore, who was then 32, in 1979. Other accusers have since come forward.

Moore has said that he never met Corfman, and denies many of the allegations against him. He has not, however, vigorously disputed that he had a history of dating teenagers in the late ’70s and early ’80s, while he was in his 30s and unmarried. He also acknowledged recognizing the names of at least two of the women named in the original Post story.

On Sean Hannity’s radio show, Moore said he “dated a lot of young ladies” but always with the permission of their mothers — the irony being that he was dating women so young he needed to ask their parents’ permission in the first place. Moore has also said he first noticed his wife, who is 14 years his junior, when she was 15 years old. The pair did not begin dating until she was 23.

Moore led Jones in most public polls before the allegations against him surfaced publicly; according to RealClearPolitics he was up by about 6 points on average. But his support declined sharply afterward. A mid-November Fox News poll showed Jones with an 8-point lead.

Three late-November polls, however, show Moore leading Jones. A JMC Analytics Poll of 650 registered Alabama voters had Moore with 48 percent support and Jones with 43 percent. Change Research, in an online survey conducted Sunday and Monday, found that Moore led Jones 47 percent to 42 percent. And an Emerson College poll released Tuesday showed 53 percent of likely Alabama voters supported Moore.

Saturday’s Washington Post poll shows the Alabama electorate is divided on the validity of the allegations against Moore, and that some voters still believe those claims are baseless. Moore has sought to cast himself as a champion of Christian values and his campaign, the Post notes, as a “spiritual battle” with heavy religious overtones. Even so, 53 percent of voters said Jones has higher standards of personal moral conduct, compared to 34 percent who said the same about Moore.

Thirty-five percent of respondents to the Post’s poll said they think Moore did make unwanted advances toward teenage girls, while 37 percent said they were unsure or had no opinion. Twenty-eight percent said Moore did not make the alleged advances. Perhaps unsurprisingly, women were more likely to find the allegations credible and support Jones than men.

Abortion is among the top issues pulling voters toward Moore. Eighty percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said they trust Moore over Jones on abortion. And across all Alabama voters, 47 percent said they trust Moore on the issue, while 46 percent said they trusted Jones.

As the dust settles around Moore, Trump heads to a conspicuously located Florida rally

The firestorm surrounding Moore has died down some after peaking in mid-November. No new allegations of sexual misconduct have emerged since around November 15; just this week Moore returned to the campaign trail, after laying low for 11 days.

Nationally, Republicans have largely pulled their support for Moore. The Senate GOP’s campaign arm and the Republican National Committee have ended their fundraising efforts on behalf of Moore’s campaign, multiple Republican senators have rescinded their endorsements, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called for the embattled candidate to step aside.

President Donald Trump has not endorsed Moore explicitly, although he also hasn’t come out against him. Just before Thanksgiving he said Moore “totally denies” the allegations and argued “we don’t need a liberal person” in the Senate.

The White House has said Trump won’t campaign for Moore in Alabama. But next week, the president is planning a rally right near the Alabama border ahead of the election that looks an awful lot like support for the candidate. Trump will appear at a campaign-style rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday, December 8 — 20 miles from the Alabama border, four days before the election.

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