Democratic Senate candidate Doug Jones on Wednesday said the claims of sexual misconduct against his GOP opponent Roy Moore are credible. But overall, Jones has been relatively restrained when it comes to attacking Moore. Jones campaign officials say they’re focusing their message on their candidate. But sometimes, the elephant in the room is too easy a target.
At a recent campaign stop at a street corner at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Jones had to get one thing out of the way: He told the national media he knew they were there because of the scandal surrounding his Republican rival.
“Again, we’re all here today, I know, because of the latest news,” he said.
Jones’ tactic had been not to focus much on Moore.
“We’re going to stay in our lane, and we’re going to talk about the issues. [People are] going to have to make their own judgments about Roy Moore. We will bring up his previous record. Other people are going to bring up the issues of the day.”
Some have even criticized Jones on social media for not being aggressive enough in going after Moore about his alleged sexual misconduct. But on Tuesday, Jones released his latest campaign ad. It’s a more direct attack, and an appeal to Republicans. It shows them saying things including “Don’t decency and integrity matter any more?” and “I’m a Republican, but Roy Moore? No way.”
Zac McCrary, a Democratic pollster unaffiliated with the campaign, says the ad’s goal is key.
“Any Democrat who hopes to be successful in Alabama has to put together a very broad coalition of virtually all Democrats, has to do very well with independent voters, and even has to pick up some Republican voters,” says McCrary. “The Jones campaign needs to make sure that Jones is seen as an acceptable alternative.”
Jones has been putting out broadcast and digital ads for weeks, most of them designed to answer one question: who is Doug Jones? Staffers say he traveled 1,500 miles one recent week crisscrossing the state to meet voters. Volunteers are going door-to-door, calling people, and hosting events in their homes.
Or as Doug Fields, a Birmingham employment lawyer who volunteers for the Jones campaign puts it, “In my case, I’m talking to my clients.”
He says even with all the attention on the allegations against Moore, Jones should stay focused on Jones.
“This noise and these bombshells that have occurred just have not changed the message at all. Let everyone know who he is. I mean, the man was a U.S. Attorney. He prosecuted the cowardly Klansmen who blew up the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church and killed four little girls.”
This volatile U.S. Senate race was once assumed to be a sure Republican win. But whether it’s Jones’ strategy, Moore’s scandal, or a mix, the outcome now seems less certain.
The election to fill Jeff Sessions’ former seat is December 12.