Alabama could determine Trump’s political future
It was a campaign rally in Alabama in August 2015 which put the rest of the world on notice that Donald Trump was a force to be reckoned with.
On that warm, humid night in Mobile, Trump packed 30,000 curious and furious people into Ladd-Peebles Stadium. Using the Alabama rally as the template for future events, Trump’s stadium and arena rallies became a signature of his campaign.
After Mobile, his campaign gained enough steam to win Alabama’s presidential primary, the Republican nomination and the presidency. What followed was four years of unassailable success for conservatives in every area from tax cuts to regulatory reform to the federal courts.
Trump has reentered the state’s borders – albeit in the figurative sense this time – to once again put his political fate in the hands of the people of Alabama, a group which has proven to be among the most Trump-loyal voters in the country.
The former casino operator has placed his chips all-in on U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) to be Alabama’s next United States Senator.
Trump got in early, too, delivering his endorsement more than 13 months ahead of the 2022 Republican primary. Brooks has made two unsuccessful runs at statewide office, including one U.S. Senate campaign, but this one may turn out to be different.
In NFL Draft parlance, Brooks is a high floor, low ceiling candidate, a natural choice for Trump who is seeking to maintain his footing in national Republican politics with an eye toward 2024.
A Club for Growth poll conducted among Alabama Republican primary voters in late April showed Brooks leading the field with 59% of the vote. With a Trump endorsement and the whole of Brooks’ record baked into those polling numbers, Brooks is unlikely to see his numbers nudge up much higher under any circumstance. But a candidate only needs 50% plus one vote to win the nomination, so Brooks currently sits better than the rest of the field.
Brooks – and Trump through his endorsement – are banking on the state’s Republican primary voters to care about the 2020 election with the same intensity in 2022 as they did immediately following the election. After all, the entire premise of Brooks’ campaign, and the reason for Trump’s endorsement, is that Brooks fought for Trump post-election.
Meanwhile, Trump is not the only Republican with designs on a 2024 run.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former Vice President Mike Pence have all been circling at a respectful distance and actively gauging Trump’s strength, which is why the Alabama U.S. Senate primary will draw special scrutiny from those aspiring presidential candidates.
Should Brooks stumble and lose a third statewide Republican primary, prospective 2024 candidates are going to see a green light to run. If Trump is unable to steer the outcome of a race in the reddest of red states, what would that signal about his standing among Republicans heading into presidential primaries?
There has been a limited amount of activity in Alabama’s primary, so far.
Earlier this week, Brooks received a gift wrapped in a bow and presented on a platter when he was sued by U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) for allegations related to the U.S. Capitol riot. However, Brooks passed on the opportunity to bolster his credentials as a fighter for Alabamians. He might have used the opportunity to say something like this: “I was sued by a liberal California Democrat, who had an affair with a Chinese spy, for no other reason than the fact that they know I’ll fight for your Alabama values.”
Instead, the response from Brooks and his surrogates involved a discussion of the proper service of process in a civil suit and the intricacies of Alabama’s criminal trespass statute.
Not exactly a confidence-inspiring campaign strategy for anyone whose fate is tied to Brooks.
Brooks has also reportedly been campaigning on the Gulf Coast with Trump nemesis and former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It will be interesting over the coming months to see how that alliance sits with the 45th president.
Trump is in the midst of endorsing candidates in swing states like North Carolina and Georgia. Nowhere has he endorsed a candidate where the electorate is such a clear-cut representation of his voters in 2016 and 2020 like there is in Alabama.
Alabama’s primary is scheduled for May 24, 2022, nearly one year from now. That’s a lifetime in politics. Whatever happens will go a long way toward determining Trump’s political prospects.
Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia