Poll: Moore has lead, Dems see opportunity in Ala. Senate race

Poll: Moore has lead, Dems see opportunity in Ala. Senate race
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Republican Roy Moore leads Democrat Doug Jones by 8 points in a new poll ahead of Alabama's December special election to fill the state's open Senate seat.

Polling by JMC Analytics, a group that's spent months polling the Alabama race, shows Moore with 48 percent of the vote compared to Jones's 40 percent, with 11 percent undecided. That result meshes with another recent poll showing the race within 6 points.

Considering President Trump won the state in November by 28 points and Republican senators there typically win by double-digit margins, the polling indicates that Democrats could mount a competitive effort.

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Moore cruised to victory in last week's GOP primary runoff thanks to the fervent supporters he gained through a long career of taking an uncompromising stance on religious freedom, defying two court orders in high-profile clashes over same-sex marriage and the separation of church and state.

And unlike in the primary, Moore now has the backing of the entire GOP, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell expects Paul to return to Senate next week Former Hill staff calls for mandatory harassment training Gaming the odds of any GOP tax bill getting signed into law MORE and President Trump, who both endorsed Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeGOP rushes to cut ties to Moore Cruz’s Democratic challenger fundraises off support of Roy Moore Moore digs in amid mounting GOP criticism MORE (R-Ala.) in the primary.

Trump's favorability in Alabama is at 51 percent, according to JMC's poll, which is higher than the national average.

But Moore's record hasn't endeared him to moderate Republicans, especially after establishment Republican groups dumped millions of dollars into the state to attack Moore in his race against Strange.

Moore's controversial record — he's said that homosexual conduct should be illegal and has blamed mass tragedies on the country drifting away from religion — has prompted an energetic push among some Democrats to rally around Jones and mount a dark horse bid for what's usually a safe GOP seat.

Jones's fundraising has risen dramatically in the past few months, former Vice President Joe BidenJoseph (Joe) Robinette BidenThe Hill's 12:30 Report Pence talks regularly to Biden, Cheney: report Biden moving toward 2020 presidential run: report MORE has announced plans to stump with the Democrat and some Democratic groups are calling on the party to spare no expense in helping him fight Moore. The single-digit polling shows the race in play and might mean the Democrats ramp up their efforts.

But while special election turnout is notoriously unpredictable, it'll still be a difficult climb for Democrats in a state dominated by Republicans. JMC's polling found that 53 percent of voters polled identify as evangelical Christians and 50 percent believe Moore is qualified to be senator despite his controversies, promising signs for Republicans fresh off the heels of a divisive primary.

Voters will head to the polls on Dec. 12 to pick the replacement for former Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsCurtis wins Chaffetz's former Utah House seat Overnight Cybersecurity: What we learned from Carter Page's House Intel testimony | House to mark up foreign intel reform law | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | Sessions to testify at hearing amid Russia scrutiny FBI can’t unlock Texas shooter’s phone MORE (R-Ala.), who joined Trump's administration as attorney general.

JMC polled 500 people between Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, with a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. The vast majority of the sample was made up of people who plan to vote in the special election, although some are still undecided.