Alabama Senate GOP Write-in Race is a Replay of the Iron Bowl UPDATED

There is a lot of speculation throughout Alabama about who Republican Senator Richard Shelby wrote in as his vote for senator in next week’s special election.

Casting an absentee ballot late last month, all Shelby would say is he wrote in the name of a “distinguished Republican.” Guesses as to who won Shelby’s vote range from ex-Sen. Jeff Sessions to interim Sen. Luther Strange. Shelby may have even cast a vote for himself, rather than voting for the embattled and increasingly unpopular Roy Moore.

UPDATE: Shelby doubled down the last Sunday before the election, going on national television to urge Alabama Republicans to cast write-in votes instead of voting for Moore. “I’d rather see the Republican win, but I’d hope that Republican would be a write-in,” Shelby said. “I didn’t vote for Roy Moore. I wouldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I think the Republican Party can do better.”

Shelby cast his write-in vote before retired Marine Col. Lee Busby of Tuscaloosa formally announced his write-in campaign. Busby is an interesting Republican voter with deep connections to the Trump White House. He once served as chief of staff to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, himself a retired four-star general.

Shelby isn’t alone. Republicans throughout Alabama have been requesting information from state and local officials on how to cast a write-in ballot in next Tuesday’s election. The onslaught of requests even prompted Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, himself a Republican, to issue a special release with instructions for how to cast a write-in ballot.

UPDATE: The write-in vote wave opposing Moore got a big boost down the stretch with a major Alabama television advertising buy from a conservative organization. The ads focus on Christian and family values.

While most observers focus on which GOP politicians will pick up the most write-in votes, many Republicans will likely go another route, choosing iconic Alabamians as their candidate. GOP fans of Alabama’s favorite fall pastime are girding for an Iron Bowl fight off the gridiron. Alabama coach Nick Saban, who routinely picks up write-in votes in everything from student government to presidential elections, may turn out to be the choice of most Republicans. There even have been calls for Saban to seek the Senate seat. However, it’s worth pointing out that with Gus Malzahn and his Auburn Tigers handily defeating Alabama in this year’s Iron Bowl, he might just give Saban a run for the money in the Senate write-in sweepstakes.

It should surprise no one if one or both of prominent football coaches top the write-in ticket.

UPDATE: Interestingly, it’s Mac Watson of Auburn who at the moment is generating the most social media attention for his GOP Senate write-in campaign, according to an analysis performed at the request of Rural Votes by a top social media data scientist. The conservative businessman has a common sense agenda. Watson contends that since a low-paid worker is held to high standards, a well-paid U.S. senator should be expected to uphold a moral code as well. Moore fails that smell test, he contends.

A Republican political operative, who has worked at the highest levels of statewide elections in Alabama, said the write-in campaign is likely bigger than people think. “This is an election that the voters might not be comfortable admitting how they plan to vote to pollsters…Alabama is a God-fearing state, so you have to expect some voters want an alternative to Moore,” the political operative said, asking to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal.

Unlike the Republicans, Democrats don’t have a write-in candidate.

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