Should Roy Moore drop out after a series of allegations involving sexual misconduct? Morning Consult tested the waters with a poll conducted late last week, and reports this morning that the overwhelming majority of voters say no. In fact, only 26% of Republicans support Moore’s continued candidacy, and that’s on the basis of not trusting the Washington Post:
A new Morning Consult/Politico survey shows a continued Moore candidacy and his entrance into the Senate could prove problematic — much as it did with controversial candidates in 2010 and 2012 — for Republicans who are hoping to improve on their 52-48 Senate majority during next year’s midterm elections. Many GOP candidates would potentially have to answer for Moore’s behavior while running their own campaigns.
In the nationwide poll of 1,993 registered voters conducted online from Nov. 9-11, 60 percent of those surveyed said they found The Washington Post’s report credible and that Moore should not continue his run for Senate. Seventy-two percent of Democrats called for Moore to drop his campaign, as did 56 percent of independents and half of Republicans. The poll carries a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Sixteen percent of registered voters (including 26 percent of Republicans) said Moore should stay in the race, roughly the same share of respondents (17 percent) who said they did not find The Washington Post’s reporting to be credible.
The crosstabs tell us a few interesting details, mainly to emphasize the unusual commonality of the response. It’s a national poll, but the results in the South aren’t much different than the overall results. Sixty percent find the Post’s reporting credible overall, with 57% of those in the South agreeing. The same 60% percent of respondents say Moore should withdraw, and the same 57% of Southern voters concur. There are differences in partisan responses, but as noted, Republicans choose withdrawal over remaining in the race by a 2:1 margin, 50/26. Indies, usually a good control group for partisanship, have at 56/14. There’s a small shift toward Moore from Republican respondents, but not much — and that’s probably gone after Beverly Young Nelson’s presser yesterday, accusing Moore of sexual assault.
Keep two points in mind when reading this poll. First, it was taken when the Post was the only source of the allegations against Moore. Yesterday’s emergence of Nelson independent of the Post’s reporting will likely tip the scales even further away from Moore.
Second: It is a national poll, not one focused on Alabama, but that’s the larger point. The problem for Republicans won’t just be contained to Alabama if they continue to support Moore. What voters think matters now in places like Florida, Missouri, Montana, Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and so on where the GOP hopes to unseat incumbent Democrat Senators in 2018. That’s why I argue in my column for The Week that Mitch McConnell and the GOP have made the wise choice in shunning Moore:
Moore ran against McConnell and the so-called Republican establishment and with the support of populist activists, most notably former White House adviser Stephen Bannon. McConnell has no investment in Moore beyond trying to retain his seat for the GOP, and Moore’s failure would be yet another example of the lack of vetting in grassroots–drafted candidates that ran against traditional recruits, recalling the failures of Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, and Christine O’Donnell in previous Senate contests.
But even beyond this election, McConnell and others in the Senate have turned to a longer-term political calculus. Sexual harassment and assault scandals have finally broken through to the center of debate, with accusations roiling centers of power in Hollywood, the media, and politics. The cultural paradigm has shifted enough for victims to feel more confident about exposing their alleged attackers, and the sheer volume and pattern of accusations lends more credibility in the public square. Attempting to defend and ally with Moore, especially as more accusations emerge, would tarnish the Republican brand for more than just a special-election cycle.
The world has changed. “I believe the women” has become more of a cultural default in the wake of Harvey Weinstein, Brett Ratner, Mark Halperin, et al when it comes to holding people accountable for abuse. In the end, Nelson will be proven correct: It’s not about Republicans and Democrats, but about abuse and silence. Republicans and Democrats both have to choose whether to circle the wagons or promote accountability. In this case, even if it means the loss of a seat for a short time, McConnell and the GOP have chosen wisely.
Consider it a down payment on 2018.