There is a stark class divide in the Alabama Senate race. It's larger than the gender gap, and it crosses party lines.
White-collar folks who graduated from college are significantly more likely to defect from Republican candidate Roy Moore than blue-collar, non-college-educated people.
The country club set cares far more about their state's reputation and the effect it has on the business climate.
The Washington Post-Schar School poll published the weekend before last, which showed the race within the margin of error, found that Moore led Democratic candidate Doug Jones by 42 points among non-college-educated whites, 69 per cent to 27 per cent. Among college-educated whites, however, Moore led by just 4 points, 50 per cent to 46 per cent.
Among white non-college women, Moore led by 36 points. Among white women who graduated from college, Jones led by 15 points.
No one highlights the elite concern about Moore better than Richard Shelby. Alabama's senior senator cast an absentee ballot for an unnamed Republican write-in candidate, and he's now made multiple television appearances to say that he cannot vote for his party's nominee.
Despite Moore's denials, Shelby believes the five women who told the Washington Post that he pursued them when they were teenagers and he was an assistant district attorney in his 30s, including a woman who says he touched her sexually when she was 14.
"I think Alabama deserves better," Shelby said yesterday on CNN. "I didn't vote for Roy Moore. I wouldn't vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican Party can do better."
The senator's criticisms, which are already being featured prominently in Jones's television ads, have created a permission structure for Republicans to defect, especially as the White House goes all-in for Moore.
President Donald Trump recorded a robo-call that's being delivered to GOP homes, in which he says that his agenda will be "stopped cold" if Jones wins and that a Senator Moore will help him fix the problems caused by the "Obama disaster".
Shelby fears that Moore's candidacy could hurt the state he has spent four decades in Congress trying to transform into a destination for manufacturing, biotechnology and aerospace. "I think the image of anything matters," he said. "It's not 1860. It's not 1900. It's not 1940. It's not 1964 or 1965. It's 2017. And Alabama in a lot of ways is on the cutting edge, on the cusp of a lot of good things."
The senator freely admits that he is anxious about how a Moore victory would affect the corporate world's impressions of Alabama.
"Is this a good place to live, or is it so controversial that we wouldn't go there?" Shelby said. "You know, these companies are looking to invest. They are looking for a good place to live, a good place to do business, a good education system, opportunities, transportation. And we have come a long way; we've got to keep going. . . . We can't live in the past."
Shelby easily squashed a primary challenge from his right last year by emphasising his seniority and effectiveness at bringing home the bacon for Alabama from his perch on the Appropriations Committee. In a state where half a dozen public buildings are named for Shelby, that decidedly retro pitch resonated.
The 83-year-old probably won't seek another term in 2022.
That "Alabama can do better" has been the central theme of every Democratic closing argument. A pro-Jones Super PAC called Highway 31 has spent US$3.6 million on the race. "Don't let Alabama's good name be tarnished," a narrator says in the group's final radio ad. "Don't wash it all away. Don't let Roy Moore become Alabama."
In Birmingham, trying to gin up African American enthusiasm, Jones campaigned with Senator Cory Booker, (D), at a packed campaign office. "Don't let anyone tell you this is an election of choices to what Alabama wants to be. It is not that. We know who we are, Alabama," said Jones. "This is an election to tell the world who we are."
"Please, I'm from Jersey," Booker chimed in. "We definitely don't want some people just singling out a few folks on the Jersey Shore TV show and thinking that's my entire state. No, there is goodness and decency and mercy and love here."
Campaigning at a historically black college in Montgomery, the likely 2020 presidential candidate explained why he came: "I'm here to try to help to get some folk woke".
While Booker says Trump should think about resigning, Jones carefully avoids talking about the President. Whenever he's asked about him, the Alabama Democrat pivots immediately to talk about the state's business climate.
"Right now, Alabama is in competition for a US$1.6 billion Toyota Mazda manufacturing plant, which would bring 4000 jobs to this state," he said during a speech last week.
"When Toyota is trying to decide whether to expand its operation here, they're going to want to know what our state is doing. . . . A serious question that you have to ask yourself is this: Does the idea of Senator Roy Moore make it more or less likely that Toyota or anyone else would see Alabama's image in such a negative way that they would cross Alabama off of their list and move on to another state?"
The business community has emerged as the in-state constituency perhaps most supportive of Jones.
The editor in chief of the Birmingham Business Journal, Ty West, warned his readers in a recent column that this scandal will hurt Alabama's economy in the long term: "Alabama has been a national punching bag. . . . For a state and a business community constantly trying to distance itself from misguided stereotypes, that's extremely unfortunate.
"It's one thing for an executive to hear a stereotype from a prospective company or employee and have a chance to correct it. It's a completely separate matter to get emailed links of actual comments and situations from those same prospects asking 'what is going on in your state?' . . . We simply won't shed our longtime image if these situations continue."
The opinion pages of the state's newspapers have been filled with dire warnings about what message a Moore victory might send to the outside.
"Over my years, I have seen the effects of Alabama's Demagogue Hall of Fame, namely, backwardness, shamefulness and embarrassment," Cliff Andrews from Piedmont wrote in a letter to the editor that appeared in the Anniston Star. "I love Alabama and I've long since been ready for a change. I see an opportunity for that change, one that would be heard around the world."
This is a consistent theme that comes up in voter interviews, as well. Consider these three people the Post's Robert Costa met in Northern Alabama last week:
"I can't stand us getting pinned now as rednecks or uneducated," said Ella Jernigan, a 19-year-old Republican student who's studying marketing at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. "Every time you think we're going forward, something like Roy Moore sets us back."
"You travel across the country and you say 'Alabama,' and something goes right across people's eyes every time," said retired actor Jonathan Fuller, a 61-year-old Democrat, as he shopped at the Piggly Wiggly supermarket in the suburbs south of Birmingham. "I don't want to apologise anymore for where I'm from because there is this pocket of stubbornness in my state."
"I've been in Alabama for 42 years, and I'm so tired of the publicity being so bad. It's not who we are, and it's embarrassing," said JoAnn Turner, a 71-year-old nurse who lives in Vestavia Hills, a mostly white Birmingham suburb. "I'll have to do a write-in, because at the end of the day, this is about my conscience."
For many Republicans, supporting Jones is a bridge too far. So Democratic groups have been encouraging people like Turner to write in someone else. American Bridge is running digital ads right now that encourage people to write in Alabama football coach Nick Saban.
To be sure, Alabama has long had a defiant streak. That is one key to understanding why so many people are still strongly supporting Moore despite all the allegations.
"The state's official motto is 'We dare defend our rights,' but those of us who've lived here our whole lives know the real motto: 'We shall not be told,'" Kyle Whitmire, the political columnist for the Alabama Media Group, wrote in the Post.
"Each Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Sessions and his possum, each Jimmy Kimmel prank, each op-ed browbeating - it might as well be a dare. If the Washington Post ran a banner headline tomorrow saying 'Antifreeze is poison, don't drink it,' a sizable number of Alabamians would be dead tomorrow. . . . For unscrupulous politicians, that insecurity is a well that never runs dry. Moore has his bucket in hand, and he's dropping it down that well again."
Prominent people in Alabama are nervous about the kinds of zany stuff Moore might say if he comes to Washington, where he'd have a larger national platform than ever and anything he said would get cable coverage.
CNN unearthed a 2011 radio interview yesterday, for example, in which the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court said that getting rid of all the constitutional amendments after the Tenth Amendment would "eliminate many problems" in the way the federal government is structured. Among other important rights, that would get rid of the amendments that gave African Americans citizenship and women the right to vote.
An African American man asked Moore when the United States was last great during an event in September. "I think it was great at the time when families were united - even though we had slavery - they cared for one another," he replied, according to the Los Angeles Times. "Our families were strong, our country had a direction."
These sorts of incendiary comments are one of the reasons that Moore's campaign has kept the candidate off the trail and below the radar in the final weeks of the campaign.
He hasn't had any events since he appeared with former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon last Wednesday. Moore was scheduled to have a closing rally today, with Bannon flying back to help.
It's not just Alabama's image. The GOP brand is also taking a hit.
A former longtime Republican spokesman on Capitol Hill, Kurt Bardella, has decided to quit the party over its embrace of Moore.
"President Trump and the Republican National Committee are endorsing, supporting and funding Moore because they would rather elect a sexual predator who preys on teenagers at the local mall than a crime-fighting prosecutor who happens to be a Democrat," Bardella writes in an op-ed for USA Today.
"This is not a party I want to be associated with any longer. This is not a party that is trustworthy enough to protect innocent children from sexual predators. The embrace of Moore by the Republican Party's top 'leadership' is all the proof you need to know that this is a party that no longer stands for anything."