The Republican Senate race in Alabama has tightened, recent polls show, as a trio of candidates spar to see who will run against vulnerable Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November.
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who once occupied the seat now held by Mr. Jones, remains the favorite, according to a Mason-Dixon Polling and Strategy survey done on behalf of three Alabama media outlets.
But Mr. Sessions’ lead is not so commanding that he appears likely to win the race outright on March 3, and Republican Rep. Bradley Byrneand former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville are battling to see who will oppose Mr. Sessions in a March 31 runoff.
The poll gave 31% to Mr. Sessions, and put Mr. Tuberville just behind him with 29%. Mr. Byrne was third with 17%, although some other polls have shown less daylight between him and Mr. Tuberville.
Mr. Byrne’s camp said its internal numbers this week showed him with a lead over Mr. Tuberville, although both of them still trailed Mr. Sessions.
“We are still the only candidate with room to grow,” said Seth Morrow, Mr. Byrne’s campaign spokesman, and the figures back him up. The Mason-Dixon poll found that while Mr. Sessions and Mr. Tuberville had nearly universal name recognition, Mr. Byrne was unknown by some 22 percent of voters, which the pollsters noted gave him the highest ceiling in their survey.
All three of them would beat Mr. Jones, according to the poll.
The poll found Mr. Sessions beating Mr. Jones 54%-41%, while Mr. Tuberville led him 50%-42% and Mr. Byrne by 51%-42%.
Overall, Mr. Jones came out underwater, with 47% of those polled viewing him unfavorably and just 31% favorably.
The poll was conducted while the Senate was mulling its vote in President Trump’s impeachment trial. Mr. Trump remains popular in Alabama, and Mr. Jones’ Feb. 5 vote to remove him was regarded by some Alabama prognosticators as a death sentence to his reelection prospects.
Mr. Jones was already ranked as the most vulnerable senator in 2020 by many political observers, given he would be seeking a full term in a race with Mr. Trump at the top of the ballot. With Mr. Trump’s coattails — and without a controversial opponent such as Roy Moore, the former state supreme court justice — Mr. Jones’ electoral future seemed dim.
Mr. Moore, whose 2017 campaign cratered amid hotly denied allegations he sexually assaulted and behaved inappropriately with underage girls when he was beginning his legal career, remains in the race but is a longshot, according to the poll. Republican voters view him unfavorably by a margin of 46%-21%, the poll found.
It remains to be seen if Mr. Trump will throw his endorsement behind any of the Republican candidates. The president famously fumed at Mr. Sessions for his immediate recusal in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but Mr. Sessions has told Alabama voters he intends to remain loyal to the president’s agenda if returned to the Senate.
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