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Moore's defeat

Dec 13, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

Would Wyoming have elected Roy Moore?

Now that the special election in Alabama is over, with that bright red state choosing a Democrat by a tiny margin over a Republican candidate who, charitably, must be described as "deeply flawed," a fair question for the political scientists, amateur and professional, contemplating an even redder state than Alabama is, "What if that election had been here instead of there?"

Would Wyoming, where no Democrat has a chance to win any statewide office under normal circumstances, have gone ahead and sent Roy Moore to the U.S. Senate, over a well-qualified Democrat who had not been accused of multiple counts of sexual misconduct against under-age girls?

Wyoming has had statewide special elections before, at least once involving a Fremont County candidate. In the 1980s, when U.S. Rep. Dick Cheney was named Secretary of Defense, Republican Craig Thomas and Democrat John Vinich met in a special election to replace Cheney. Vinich, a longtime Wyoming legislator, was from Hudson. Thomas won that race comfortably, even though Vinich almost had come within recount distance of defeating U.S. Sen. Malcolm Wallop a couple of years earlier.

Thomas later became a Senator himself, and he died in office. In 2008, another special election was held to fill the remainder of his term. That vote was won in a landslide by John Barrasso, who since has been re-elected. (Anyone remember the name of his Democratic opponent? Nick Carter.)

In neither case was there a candidate to compare even remotely to Roy Moore, who was a terrible standard-bearer for the Republican Party even before the misconduct claims. National analysts are reviewing every element of his campaign, so there's no need for a local assessment here other than to note that Moore did almost everything wrong in the campaign, while Democrat Doug Jones did just about everything right.

And still, Moore only lost by a bit more than 1 percent.

Would he have won in Wyoming? A wholly unscientific poll around the office included one former elected official and a current one. No, said one, even Wyoming couldn't have voted for Moore. Yes, said the other, Moore would have won in Wyoming on the basis of his party affiliation alone.

Democrat Jones capitalized on a demoralized GOP voter base that didn't turn out in strong percentages, on a disaffected GOP voter segment that was turned off by Moore and actually voted for the Democrat, and on a huge turnout among black and other minority voters who went for Jones by enormous margins. All these voters existed in Alabama beforeTuesday. Roy Moore upended them.

Wyoming has no concentration of minority voters large enough to sway a statewide election. Even with low turnout and a large number of disaffected Republicans who wouldn't vote for a man accused, credibly, of molesting under-age girls, would there have been the votes to elect the Democrat?

Party affiliation is one of the fun things about politics. If you register as a Republican or a Democrat, most likely it's because you expect, and want, to vote for candidates from your party. If you can't do that, then perhaps you shouldn't affiliate.

Fine. But the question Roy Moore's candidacy posed was something more. At what point is party affiliation insufficient to command an individual's vote? The nation saw Alabama's answer Tuesday night.

Would Wyoming have elected Roy Moore? Possibly? Probably? Definitely?

As another election year arrivesin three weeks, let's all of us, Republican and Democrat alike, pledge to each other that we'll never put our state in a position to have to answer that question.

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