Alabama's renegade Chief Justice Roy Moore was already the darling of the far right when he rallied cheering supporters on the steps of the state courthouse last August. Nationally known as the "Ten Commandments Judge," Moore had installed a 5,280-pound granite sculpture of an open book inscribed with the commandments shortly after he was elected in 2001, and then defied a federal court order to remove it. Observers couldn't help being reminded of Gov. George Wallace's infamous stand in the schoolhouse door, rallying Alabama segregationists in defiance of a federal court order to integrate the University of Alabama.
Now, almost everywhere Moore goes, people ask him to do something else Wallace did: run for president.
The possibility that Roy Moore could challenge President Bush in November may not be costing Karl Rove any sleep -- yet. But the chance that the popular conservative judge could do to Bush what Ralph Nader did to Al Gore in 2000 -- split his ideological base, and cost him the presidency -- has analysts crunching numbers and weighing Moore's chances. Moore and his spokeswoman did not return telephone and e-mail messages from Salon, but Moore's public statements have been consistent in recent months. He is keeping his options open, he says, and he will decide if he will run when he has exhausted his court appeals in the Ten Commandments case.
Meanwhile, the 57-year-old Moore is acting more and more like a candidate as he crisscrosses the country, speaking at gatherings of Christian rightists, home-schoolers and state conventions of the far-right Constitution Party, which was on 41 state ballots in the 2000 election, and is courting Moore to head its ticket. If he ran on the Constitution Party ticket, he would probably be on more state ballots than Nader this year. With 320,000 members it is the third-largest party in the U.S, in terms of registered voters.
Will the dynamics of the race change if Moore throws his hat in the ring? Hastings Wyman, a former aide to the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., and editor of the Southern Political Report, thinks so. Wyman told Salon that he thinks Moore has the potential to "do to Bush what Nader did to Gore." Other Republican and Democratic strategists aren't so sure, but no one thinks Bush can stand much erosion in his base. Certainly some Republican leaders take Moore seriously enough to quietly court him, hoping to keep him in the party and preserve the president's Christian far-right constituency.
Seriously, wouldn't it be lovely? He'd peel away the Republican right like peeling a grape -- those people who hold their noses and vote for the Republicans despite the fact that Bush isn't quite conservative enough for them. The article indicates that he'd pull enough people in New Hampshire, Florida, and Oregon to put all three states into play -- and you figure he'd have to do serious damage in Alabama, even if he couldn't pull enough votes to take it out of the Republican column. You figure both he and Nader would poll somewhere between 1-3 percent of the vote nationwide, so there would be someone to balance out the damage that Nader is likely to do, should he keep running. (In fact, should Moore run as the Constitution Party candidate, he'll do more damage than Nader, or at least has the potential to do so. The Constitution Party, having done its homework, is already on more ballots than Nader can possibly be.
To prevent Moore from stripping away the Republicans' conservative right, Bush would have to pander to the conservative right even more than he already does. This would leave liberal (if there is such a creature) and moderate Republicans in something of a bind. They already find some of the conservative extremism deeply disturbing; whatever will they do if their candidate starts playing to that crowd even more? They're not likely to vote for Kerry, of course; that would be not only a betrayal of their party, but he articulates political positions with which they do not remotely agreee. They might just choose to throw up their hands in despair and stay home.
To be sure, the Constitution Party is perfectly vile and believes only in their benighted view of said Constitution, with, ideally, a white Christian theocracy running the country -- so Moore would be their ideal candidate, wouldn't he?Posted by iain at May 07, 2004 11:59 AM