Sen. Luther Strange trails Roy Moore by 4 percentage points in a new poll shared first with the Washington Examiner, putting him within striking distance of the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court in a special GOP primary election runoff nearly five weeks before Election Day.
Moore won the first round, defeating Strange by 6 points, 38.9 percent to 32.8 percent; Rep. Mo Brooks finished with 19.7 percent. Initial polling of the Sept. 26 runoff showed Moore jumping out to a big lead over Strange. But in the first operator live-dial called made public, the race is much closer, with Moore edging the senator 45 percent to 41 percent.
The survey of 601 Republican primary voters was conducted Aug. 21 - Aug. 23 by the GOP and has an error margin of plus or minus 4 points. Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen produced the survey for Senate Leadership Fund, the super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
The group is backing Strange, appointed to the Senate in January after Jeff Sessions resigned to become U.S. attorney general. The victor in the primary will heavily favored in the special election to fill the remainder of the term Sessions' won in 2014.
The campaign is complicated mix of establishment versus outsider.
McConnell is backing Strange, and Moore is trying to use that to his advantage. Congress has a poor approval rating with Republican voters, and Moore is pledging to oppose the majority leader if he is elected to the Senate. But Strange has been endorsed by President Trump, perhaps the ultimate political outsider, who happens to be quite popular in Alabama.
Trump has a favorable rating of 83 percent among Republicans in the state, with just 12 percent viewing the president unfavorably. At 59 percent, Moore's favorability is 7 points higher than Strange's 52 percent rating.