Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville wins Alabama Senate race after avoiding debates

Pete Thamel
·3-min read

Former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville won a United States Senate seat in Alabama on Tuesday night, an expected victory with a campaign run almost solely on a pro-Trump agenda.

Tuberville, 66, heads the Senate with no political experience. He ran a campaign in which his primary strategy was based around attaching himself to President Trump, not exposing any potential weaknesses and relying on his name recognition in the state. He didn’t debate his opponent, Democratic incumbent Doug Jones, and did little in terms expressing expansive knowledge of issues, speaking to the media and taking tangible political positions.

The Tuberville gameplan revolved around counting on Trump voters in one of the most consistently red states in America voting for the Republican candidate. After beating former Senator Jeff Sessions in the Republican runoff, much thanks to support from Trump, Tuberville’s victory has been considered a formality.

“It was kind of like the defense resting in a trial without putting any witnesses on the stand,” said David Mowery, chairman of the Alabama-based Mowery Consulting Group.

The gameplan worked. When the Associated Press declared him the winner on Tuesday night, he’d received 62 percent of the vote. His victory flips a critical Senate seat from Democrat to Republican.

Tuberville defeated Jones, the rare Democrat in Alabama who won after his opponent, Roy Moore, was accused of sexual misconduct by several women during a special election in 2017. It took a perfect storm of allegations against Moore and a deftly run campaign for Jones to win.

Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville watches the results come in as he waits at his watch party at the Renaissance Hotel on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Republican Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville watches the results come in as he waits at his watch party at the Renaissance Hotel on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Trump won 62 percent of the vote in Alabama in 2016, a number not expected to fluctuate significantly on Thursday night. That means that 300,000 Trump votes would have needed to vote Democrat, according to Baton Rouge-based pollster John Couvillon, which seemed like a long shot.

“The things the voters of Alabama know about Tommy Tuberville are that he used to coach Auburn’s football team and he will support President Trump’s agenda,” Mowery said. “It’s a bet that Trumpism isn’t going away anytime soon.”

Tuberville’s campaign commercials give a window into his strategy. He rips former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick and falls in line with many issues important to conservatives like supporting veterans and restricting immigration. As he said in one of his campaign ads:

“Those values are under attack. Socialism, abortion on demand, open borders, it’s got to end.” He then says “drain the swamp,” “build the wall” and “respect law enforcement.”

Howell Raines, the Alabama-based former New York Times executive editor and political pundit for MSNBC, summed up Tuberville’s victory this way. “The good news is that he looks good and presents well,” Raines said. “But he doesn’t have an independent political idea in his head.”

Raines said Tuberville will fit in a long line of undistinguished Senators from Alabama. “With his exception of Richard Shelby, we really haven’t had a Senator who operated at a high level since the New Deal and Eisenhower Era,” he said. “Tuberville will fit in with that innocuous tradition.”

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