Roy Moore's potential impact on deep-red Alabama

As allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore multiply and polls suggest he could lose the senate race he once led by double-digits, political analysts offer one cautionary refrain: Remember, it’s Alabama and he’s a Republican.

But a look at Moore’s last general election in the state shows its voters may be a bit more complicated than that – and December’s senate race could be as well.

To be certain, Alabama is a deep shade of Republican red. President Donald Trump won the state by 28 points in 2016. And 42 percent of the state identifies as evangelical Christian, according to data from the Association of Religion Data Archives. That’s the highest rate in the country and it could be an aid to Moore who is explicitly appealing to evangelical Christians.

RELATED: Roy Moore through the years

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Roy Moore through the years
FILE PHOTO: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore faces the media after being removed from office in Montgomery, Alabama, U.S. November 13, 2003. REUTERS/Bob Ealum/File Photo
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 4: GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore, holding an article about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., speaks during the U.S. Senate candidate forum held by the Shelby County Republican Party in Pelham, Ala., on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017. The former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is running in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 3: GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore speaks during a candidates' forum in Valley, Ala., on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. The former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is running in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 3: GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore speaks during a candidates' forum in Valley, Ala., on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. The former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is running in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
ATLANTA - SEPTEMBER 7: Suspended Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore speaks to parishoners at The Church of the Apostles September 7, 2003 in Atlanta, Georgia. Moore's Ten Commandments monument was recently removed from the Alabama Judicial Building in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Erik S. Lesser/Getty Images)
MONTGOMERY, AL - AUGUST 16: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore leaves a rally in support of a monument of the Ten Commandments August 16, 2003 in Montgomery, Alabama. Moore said Thursday that he will defy a federal judge's order to remove the monument from the state judicial building rotunda. (Photo by Gary Tramontina/Getty Images)
MONTGOMERY, AL - AUGUST 25: Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore leaves a news conference at the State Judicial building August 25, 2003 in Montgomery, Alabama. Moore is currently suspened for not following a federal court order to remove his Ten Commandments monument from the building. (Photo by Gary Tramontina/Getty Images)
MONTGOMERY, AL - SEPTEMBER 26: Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, greets guests after arriving at an election-night rally on September 26, 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama. Moore, former chief justice of the Alabama supreme court, is in a primary runoff contest against incumbent Luther Strange for the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President Donald Trump. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FAIRHOPE, AL - SEPTEMBER 25: Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, speaks at a campaign rally on September 25, 2017 in Fairhope, Alabama. Moore is running in a primary runoff election against incumbent Luther Strange for the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President Donald Trump. The runoff election is scheduled for September 26. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 3: GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore speaks during a candidates' forum in Valley, Ala., on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. The former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is running in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 3: GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore arrives for the candidates' forum in Valley, Ala., on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. The former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is running in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 13: Roy Moore, GOP Senate candidate and former chief justice on the Alabama Supreme Court speaks during the annual Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit at the Omni Shorham Hotel on October 13, 2017 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - OCTOBER 31: Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore, is questioned by the media in the Capitol on October 31, 2017. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
FAIRHOPE, AL - SEPTEMBER 25: Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, speaks at a campaign rally on September 25, 2017 in Fairhope, Alabama. Moore is running in a primary runoff election against incumbent Luther Strange for the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President Donald Trump. The runoff election is scheduled for September 26. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FAIRHOPE, AL - SEPTEMBER 25: Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, greets guests at a campaign rally on September 25, 2017 in Fairhope, Alabama. Moore is running in a primary runoff election against incumbent Luther Strange for the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President Donald Trump. The runoff election is scheduled for September 26. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
FAIRHOPE, AL - SEPTEMBER 25: Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Alabama, Roy Moore, speaks at a campaign rally on September 25, 2017 in Fairhope, Alabama. Moore is running in a primary runoff election against incumbent Luther Strange for the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions was appointed U.S. Attorney General by President Donald Trump. The runoff election is scheduled for September 26. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 3: GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore arrives for the candidates' forum in Valley, Ala., on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. The former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is running in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - AUGUST 3: GOP candidate for U.S. Senate Roy Moore speaks during a candidates' forum in Valley, Ala., on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017. The former Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court is running in the special election to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
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Against those numbers, however, consider Alabama’s 2012 general election results. That ballot featured Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Moore as the Republican candidate for State Supreme Court Chief Justice, and the vote tallies indicate Moore has some challenges in the state, even with GOP voters.

In 2012, Romney, the definition of an establishment Republican, actually outperformed Moore, the evangelical populist, in Alabama by nine points. The former Massachusetts governor captured 61 percent of the vote in the state, compared to Moore’s 52 percent.

As allegations of sexual misconduct against Roy Moore multiply and polls suggest he could lose the senate race he once led by double-digits, political analysts offer one cautionary refrain: Remember, it’s Alabama and he’s a Republican.

Furthermore, when all the results were in, Romney won nine more Alabama counties in the presidential race, 52 of them, than Moore did in his contest, 43.

Even in Moore’s home county of Etowah, Romney outperformed Moore and by a wide margin, 13 points – 68 percent for Romney to 55 percent for Moore.

What drove the difference between the Romney and Moore vote in 2012? The numbers hint that it was voters flipping parties on those two lines of the ballot.

Overall, the presidential and the state chief justice races produced about the same number of votes, a little more than 2 million in each. But Romney won 204,000 more votes out of Alabama than Moore did in 2012.

That suggests there were about 200,000 of Alabamians voting for establishmentarian Republican Mitt Romney, who did not pull the lever for populist Roy Moore. Instead, many voted for the Democrat challenging Moore, Bob Vance. (Vance got about 180,000 more votes in Alabama than Barack Obama in 2012.)

And remember all those Republican defections from Moore happened back in 2012, long before the candidate found himself facing a growing set of allegations of sexual misconduct with teenage girls.

None of that necessarily indicates that Moore is headed for a loss in December.

Serving as a U.S. Senator in Washington is different than serving as the Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court in Montgomery. Voters may want different things out of those elected officials. The 2012 vote came in a presidential election year and presidential electorates tend to look different than others. And the political environment in the era of Donald Trump is hard to get a read on; the standard norms have often not held.

But the 2012 numbers show that Alabama Republicans are not an easily-defined monolith that march in lock-step behind a GOP nominee. Long before any of the recent allegations Moore was a divisive figure, even among Republicans in the state. December 12 may tell us how divided they are on the man.

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