Alabama polls don’t close for about another five hours, but happy hour is quickly approaching.
Since most people north of the Mason-Dixon line know little or nothing about Southern politics, here is a cheat sheet detailing the six counties to watch as the state chooses between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. If nothing else, it should give a bit of context to those cocktail conversations.
The most populous county in Alabama, Jefferson County is in the northern part of the state, encompassing the city of Birmingham.
- Makes up 14 percent of the electorate: 303,361 votes were cast during the presidential election.
- Jones country: Strange carried the county with more than 9,000 votes in the primary runoff.
- Democrat stronghold: Jefferson is one of just 13 blue counties in Alabama.
To beat Moore, Jones must win Jefferson County and must win big. In the closing days of the race, the Democrat made numerous overtures to the county’s African-American population. Their votes will be the engine of his victory.
The second most populous county in Alabama, Mobile County is at the southwest tip of the state and is the county seat for the city of Mobile.
- Makes up 8 percent of the electorate: 169,012 votes were cast during the presidential election.
- Moore country: The judge carried the county by more than 4,000 votes during the runoff.
- Republican stronghold: Red candidates tend to do better the farther south they are in the state. This county is no exception.
To beat Jones, Moore should win Mobile County. If the judge falters here, that could spell early trouble. Brian Lyman of the Montgomery Advertiser offers a note of caution: While Moore shouldn’t have any trouble winning down south, the county did go for Bob Vance, the Democrat candidate for Alabama chief justice in 2012.
The third most populous county in Alabama, Madison County borders southern Georgia and houses the city of Huntsville.
- Makes up 8 percent of the electorate: 162,634 votes were cast during the presidential election.
- Tossup Moore country: The judge lost the county to Strange during the runoff by 1,382 votes.
- Republican stronghold with an asterisk: Affluent and urban, the county is home to voters best described as Romney Republicans. Reporters looking for protest voters will find them here, in the wealthy Huntsville suburbs.
To beat Jones, Moore doesn’t need to win Madison County. He just can’t lose it too badly to the Democrat. If these normally conservative voters offer a sharp rebuke, it spells significant trouble for the Republican.
The fourth most populous county in Alabama, Montgomery County is halfway between Birmingham and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s also the county seat for the city of Montgomery.
- Makes up 5 percent of the electorate: 95,553 votes were cast during the presidential election.
- Jones country: Moore barely won the county to Strange during the runoff by just 300 votes with a tally of 7,691 votes in a county of more than 200,000.
- Democrat stronghold: This county has gone blue since Al Gore was on the ballot for president, and it went heavy for Clinton during the presidential election.
To beat Moore, Jones has to motivate the African-American vote, and that starts here. As the Wall Street Journal reports, this county and those surrounding it are more than 50 percent African-American. Expect this county to go for Jones early.
Down on the Gulf Shores, Baldwin County is at the very southern tip of the state.
- Makes up 4 percent of the electorate: 95,044 votes were cast during the presidential election.
- Moore country: The judge beat Strange handily by 1,500 votes during the runoff.
- Republican stronghold: Trump cleaned up down in Alabama, and this county was no exception.
During the runoff against Strange, Moore held his last campaign rally in Fairhope just miles from the Gulf Shores. He is comfortable in the region and should win it early.
The industrial heart of the state in west-central Alabama, Tuscaloosa County encompasses Piedmont, the state’s fifth-largest city.
- Makes up 4 percent of the electorate: 82,660 votes were cast during the presidential election.
- Tossup Moore country: Moore won the county by a little more than a thousand votes during the runoff.
- Republican stronghold (currently under siege): As the Wall Street Journal observed, Tuscaloosa went for Romney in 2012 while rejecting Moore for state Supreme Court.
To beat Jones, Moore should win here. But the Democrats candidate has been making campaign stops in the county, and there’s no guarantee that the once reliable county stays red.