Following hard on news that congressional Republicans were really, finally, positively this time giving up on Obamacare repeal comes the news from Alabama, which ought to shake them up quite a bit more.
Because Judge Roy is coming to town. Or maybe not. Either way, the news isn't good for Senate Republicans.
Roy Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, on Tuesday defeated the appointed Senate incumbent Luther Strange, in the Republican primary (by a substantial percentage, about 56% as this is written). The win is not a surprise - polling had closely reflected the outcome - and the result might have been of interest mainly in Alabama except for those pesky details.
The results, first of all, are a massive smack in the face at both President Donald Trump and Republican leadership in Congress, both of which went all out to support Strange and - no less than that - keep Moore away from Washington. A number of Trump supporters are trying to cast the vote as a win for Trump, but that's hard to support since the president was in state only days ago to plead with voters to elect Strange. The powers that be in DC contributed masses of money, and Strange outspent Moore and had more television ads on air by a factor of something like four to one. (This election should be yet another demonstration of the ongoing diminishment of TV ads as decision levers in political campaigns.)
But more than all that is the nature of the winner. Roy Moore, if sworn in to the Senate (as seems likely), will in some ways be the equivalent there to Trump in the White House - an aimless whirlwind wreaking destruction wherever possible and damaging not least his own erstwhile allies in, you know, the Republican caucus. He will be a living, breathing encouragement for any Republican in-party tornadoes out there who want to take on incumbent Republican senators in next year's elections. And quite a few of them are waiting and ready, and after today's results likely will go pounce.
And not least next to all that, is that Moore is apt to become a face of the Republican Party second only to Trump. He does have a gift for grabbing attention, and the attention he grabs will thrill his base and appall much of the rest of the country, which is to say, the majority. A few sample headlines from a backgrounder piece on Moore: "Getting fired from the Supreme Court over a 10 commandments statue ... Likening the Koran to Mein Kampf and saying a Muslim shouldn’t be allowed to serve in Congress ... Being suspended for defying the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling ... Believing Obama wasn’t born in the US as late as Dec. 2016 ... Implying 9/11 happened because America was becoming “godless” ... Saying America might be the “focus of evil in the modern world” ..." and so on ...
Alabama being as Republican-dominated as it is, Moore starts the general election campaign - that election is in December - with a clear advantage over the Democrat, former federal prosecutor Doug Jones. But don't rule Jones out. Moore seems to have no limits or barriers; his self-righteousness is boundless, and even in Alabama there may be some pushback if he guns the gas pedal too hard. So don't consider the race a foregone conclusion just yet.
Either way, Senate Republicans and President Trump will have quite a time dealing with what's coming next.