International Policy Digest

Emerging Voices /02 Jul 2020

Despite Odds Stacked Against Him, Recent History Gives Jeff Sessions a Fighting Chance

Another week, another poor performance by a Trump endorsee in their primary election. Due to recent history, a victory for Jeff Sessions on July 14th in the Alabama Republican Senate runoff is possible, despite the odds stacked against him.

Sessions, 73, served as Attorney General for the first 22 months of Trump’s first term and before that represented the state of Alabama in the U.S. Senate from 1997 to 2017. Due to his recusal in the infamous Mueller-Russia Investigation and the president claiming he was “unloyal,” Sessions’ role in the Department of Justice was short-lived.

Before his stint with the Trump administration, Sessions was one of the first politicians to endorse Trump as a presidential candidate. Now, as times have changed, Sessions is looking to reclaim his old senate seat, but in a rather tricky fashion.

His opponent, Tommy Tuberville, is popular across the state, but he also has the unmatched support from President Trump and his national base. However, Tuberville has lived mostly in Arkansas and only coached at Auburn for a decade.

While he appears to have the base needed to win the upcoming runoff, Tuberville should fear a potential loss due to recent election losses for Trump-backed candidates.

In the election to fill Mark Meadows seat in NC-11, Lynda Bennett, who was endorsed by Trump, lost to 24-year-old Madison Cawthorn. And on Tuesday in CO-03, incumbent Congressman Scott Tipton, who Trump endorsed and has been in office for five terms, lost to QAnon candidate Lauren Boebert.

Over the weekend, President Trump tweeted a graphic that read “82-1,” which represents the win-loss record of candidates he endorsed in 2016. This fact was a different story for the 2018 midterm elections when approximately 40 candidates won their elections out of the 75 Trump-endorsed candidates.

While it has been rough for Trump endorsed candidates during the delayed primary season, the impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic could benefit Sessions’ campaign. Sessions and Tuberville had to shift their campaigns from participating in community events to navigating the election through a digital campaign.

After receiving intense criticism for hosting a campaign rally two weekends ago, Trump canceled a campaign rally in Mobile to promote Tuberville’s campaign. Instead, Trump has pounded Sessions for his failure to act in the Russia Investigation and has praised Tuberville for his values and his expected victory against incumbent Democratic Senator Doug Jones in November, assuming Tuberville wins the runoff.

But Sessions is more of a household name across the state, and it showed in the duo’s first matchup during the March 3rd primary. Tuberville received 33.4% of the vote, while Sessions earned 31.6% of the vote. Not much has changed in four months in the state, despite the fact the country has dealt with a pandemic caused by the spread of COVID-19.

However, will President Trump’s poor performance of how he’s handled the pandemic affect the results of this election? I think this will be a considerable concern when voters head to the polls in less than two weeks.

Now with Trump tweeting his fondness for Tuberville, even though he has never held public office, most voters associate the former football coach with the MAGA agenda. This relationship could hurt Tuberville because, as we have seen in recent weeks and national polls, the country is ready for a significant makeover in Washington.