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Alabama Republicans have a Democratic alternative to Roy Moore

There's a "Republicans for Doug Jones" movement gaining ground in Alabama. There's no reason it can't grow larger.
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, Roy Moore, speaks to the congregation of Kimberly Church of God, June 28, 2015, in Kimberley, Ala. (Photo by Butch Dill/AP)
Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, Roy Moore, speaks to the congregation of Kimberly Church of God, June 28, 2015, in Kimberley, Ala.

The revelations surrounding Roy Moore are not nearly done. had a report late yesterday, for example, noting that the Alabama Republican's "penchant for flirting with teen girls was 'common knowledge' and 'not a big secret'" in his hometown. Of particular interest, the article quoted locals who claimed Moore, as an adult, used to hang out alone at the mall.

"He would go and flirt with all the young girls," one witness said. "It'd seem like every Friday or Saturday night (you'd see him) walking around the mall, like the kids did." Another man who grew up in the area "recalled being told by a mall employee that they kept watch for an older guy who was known to pick up younger girls."

A related piece in the New Yorker quoted another source who said, according to local rumors, that Moore "had been banned from the mall because he repeatedly badgered teen-age girls."

It's against this backdrop that Republicans are struggling to deal with Moore's latest scandal, but the Washington Post's George Will, an MSNBC contributor, has a provocative suggestion: those who don't want Moore to win next month's special election should support his opponent, Democrat Doug Jones.

It has been 21 years since a Democratic Senate candidate won even 40 percent of Alabama's vote. It has, however, been even longer -- not since the George Wallace era -- that the state's identity has been hostage to a politician who assumes that Alabamians are eager to live down to hostile caricatures of them.

A week ago, days before Moore faced allegations of sexual misconduct, ran a piece noting a small "Republicans for Doug Jones" movement gaining ground in the state, which suddenly seems relevant anew.

Indeed, the group, such as it is, may even pick up a Senate ally: Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said yesterday that he'd support Jones over Moore. "If this choice is between Roy Moore and a Democrat, a Democrat," Flake told reporters. "For sure."

I can appreciate why this seems unrealistic. In a hyper-partisan atmosphere, and with GOP politics dominated by far-right voices, the idea that Republicans, en masse, would extend support to a Democratic candidate for statewide office seems foolish, if not ridiculous on its face.

But there is some relatively recent precedent for a dynamic like this. In 1991, former KKK leader David Duke won a Republican gubernatorial primary, and GOP officials from across the country wanted nothing to do with him. The party explored a variety of alternatives, but eventually, even Gov. Buddy Roemer (R) officially endorsed the Democratic nominee, Edwin Edwards.

This wasn't easy -- Roemer had previously taken an "Anyone But Edwards" posture -- but when the Republican nominee was considered outrageously unacceptable, it made sense to announce support for the rival candidate.

Edwards was burdened by a series of corruption allegations at the time, leading to a famous bumper-sticker campaign: "Vote for the crook, it's important." (Edwards ultimately defeated Duke by 22 points.)

To be sure, the parallels are imprecise. Moore has been accused of child molestation, not KKK membership. Doug Jones has had an exemplary legal career, and has never faced corruption allegations. The point, however, is that when Republican voters nominate a statewide candidate that the party recognizes as wholly unfit for office, the party has the option of supporting that candidate's rival.