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Cross Posted at Legal Schnauzer

Americans who want to get a measure of the modern Republican Party's soul--assuming it has a soul--will want to check out today's primary runoff election for governor in Alabama.

It's a classic matchup of the GOP's primary factions--The Corporatists vs. The Values Crowd. The outcome might provide a hint about where the Republican Party is headed come November.

Bradley Byrne is the corporate candidate, the hand-picked successor of two-term governor Bob Riley. That means Byrne was plucked straight from the Bush/Rove political tree. Dr. Robert Bentley is the favorite of "values" voters. He's a courtly dermatologist and pro-lifer who has come from nowhere to make a serious race of it. The winner will take on Democrat Ron Sparks in the November general election.

Byrne essentially is Alabama's Haley Barbour, the kind of Republican who has never met a consumer he didn't want to screw. Bentley is Alabama's Mike Huckabee, a guy who appears to mix his religious zeal with a dollop of professional competence.

It's been long assumed, at least in these quarters, that Byrne easily would become Alabama's next governor. But with the economy languishing in a Bush-driven recession, oil gushing in the Gulf of Mexico, and Riley wasting taxpayer dollars on a heavy-handed attack against in-state gambling interests, the pendulum seems to have swung away from the corporate crowd.

No matter what happens today, the fact that Byrne was pushed into a runoff could be seen as a loss for the crony-capitalism crowd. And if Bentley actually pulls off the upset, it would be a giant middle finger in the face for Riley, one of the most loyal and corrupt of all Bushies--a guy who still manages to steer clear of his strong ties to GOP felons Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon.

Leave it to Alabama to serve as a perfect laboratory for GOP dysfunction. The governor's race was expected to be between Byrne and the leaders of two other GOP factions--Tim James for the Knuckledraggers (the anti-immigrant, keep "them" in their place crowd) and Roy Moore for the God Squad (those who believe the answers to all of Alabama's problems can be found in the Book of Deuteronomy).

Bentley was expected to finish no better than a distant fourth. His greatest claim to fame was that he had once treated the late Alabama coaching legend Paul "Bear" Bryant. But Bentley seemed to strike a chord with voters when he said that, if elected, he would not accept a salary as governor until Alabama reached full employment.

Bentley also gained traction simply by watching the corporatists self destruct. Byrne says he wants to improve education in Alabama, but he persistently attacks the Alabama Education Association (AEA). Byrne apparently thinks you improve classroom performance by paying teachers minimum wage and ensuring that they have no workplace protections. Byrne also has indicated he will continue Riley's anti-gambling crusade, which has closed facilities around the state and cost thousands of Alabamians their jobs in the worst economy since the Great Depression.

Meanwhile Bentley has quietly stated that he will support AEA when he thinks the organization is right. And while he personally opposes gambling, he would support a statewide referendum on gaming issues.

Byrne supporters, in a sign that they might be worried, have attacked the idea of Democrats crossing over to vote for Bentley in the runoff. Bentley, meanwhile, has said his strongest opposition has come from members of his own party--and he welcomes the support of Democrats.

This already has been a year of stunning electoral upsets for Alabama. In the Democratic primary, Ron Sparks and his populist message won in a landslide over corporatist (and Obama buddy) Artur Davis. Could we be in for another shocker today? One recent poll indicates the answer is yes, showing Bentley with a 20-point lead.

I would be astounded if that came to pass. But the mere fact that Bentley seems to be making a race of it indicates that, even in Alabama, people are growing leery of corporate control over government.

Byrne has raised way more money than Bentley and received endorsements from most of the state's Republicans elites. But we are seeing signs that many Alabamians, and maybe Americans in general, are ready to move beyond the Bush era of crony capitalism. Reports The Gadsden Times:

Bentley cast himself as an outsider within his party and Byrne as the "establishment" GOP candidate. Bentley said as the nominee he will be a unifier.

"When you are for the status quo, all these people are going to endorse you," Bentley said of Byrne’s heavyweight endorsements. "I’m going to be a governor for not only Republicans, but I’ll be the governor for Democrats."

Originally posted to RogerShuler on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 07:37 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Does Sparks have ANY chance in November? NT (0+ / 0-)

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 07:43:31 AM PDT

  •  Google images on Ron Sparks: (0+ / 0-)

    Trust me, it's worth clicking:

    http://images.google.com/...

    The "other" Ron Sparks should do a series of joint campaign appearances. That would liven things up!

    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 07:47:27 AM PDT

  •  That pollster is Republican as is the PR firm (0+ / 0-)

    ...that commissioned it, with some interesting numbers. Baselice mostly work out of Texas though they have done some polling for the NRCC.

    In phone surveys by Baselice & Associates with 1,003 highly likely Republican primary runoff voters, the race for Governor of Alabama shows Dr. Bentley some 20 points ahead of Mr. Byrne with only 13 percent undecided. Bentley is at 53% percent, and Byrne at 33% percent.

    http://www.mypublicstrategy.com/...

    http://www.baselice.com/...

    I'd be astonished too if Bentley won, let alone this type of margin.

    Here we are now Entertain us I feel stupid and contagious

    by Scarce on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 07:54:35 AM PDT

    •  Scarce (0+ / 0-)
      Thanks for your insights and the links. I encourage folks to click on those.

      Interesting that the same polling firm that gives Bentley a 20-point lead over Byrne shows the Alabama Agriculture Commissioner race in a virtual tie. And it shows Bentley's lead coming from undecided voters heading in his direction.

      I would be amazed if Bentley wins by 1 point. Hard to imagine a double-digit win, but this doesn't sound like a fly-by-night polling outfit.

  •  Great Analysis, Roger. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe

    .
     Two things:

     1.  See this, that I posted last night:  Stoopid Republican Tricks (from our friend Tommy Stevenson). It's laugh out loud funny.

     2.  I emailed our friend in Montgomery about a 1/2 hour ago to see what, if any, update he had.  Email me if you have any on that front, o.k.?

     R.

    .

    "I have to go now. I feel . . . sticky." Anthony Bourdain

    by BenGoshi on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 08:09:50 AM PDT

    •  Thanks, BG (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      BenGoshi, Otteray Scribe

      That is a classic from Tommy Stevenson. Hope folks will click on that link.

      I picked up the phone the other day and got a personal call from Mike Huckabee, asking me to vote for his friend Robert Bentley. Mike seemed like such a nice guy that I wanted to ask him a question or two and start a genuine conversation--but then I realized it was a robo-call.

      My question for Mike had to do with the appearance of Alabama's very own Bo Bice on the Huckabee show a few months back. The Huckster stood in with the band, playing bass on Bo's latest single. (It's pretty good, by the way.)

      I wanted to know, "Mike, was Bo's regular bass player pissed off that you took his spot on national TV? We all know you can play bass, and you don't have to prove it to us. Wouldn't it have been a kind gesture to let Bo's regular bass player show his stuff before a national audience?"

      Guess I'll have to call Mike at his house to run that one by him.

      •  Mike, do you believe the world's 6,000 years old? (0+ / 0-)

        .
         I mean, really?

         What's your friend Dr. Bob have to say about that?  

         Do you believe we should put ignoramuses into our highest offices?  

        .

        "I have to go now. I feel . . . sticky." Anthony Bourdain

        by BenGoshi on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 08:30:19 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I like Sparks (0+ / 0-)

    If you read up on him, he is actually
    non political in many ways. A good guy, no
    bad history, and he is low key. Kind of
    like Andy Griffith, that could go a long
    way in Alabmaa. Frankly Bently is batshit
    crazy, and Byrne is a liar du-jour for sure.

    And Sparks wants to bring the lottery, and
    legalize gambling, I think Alabama is ready for
    these things. We also have the medical marijuana
    vote coming up next year, and need a reasonable
    leader. It's gonna be interesting. Sparks smoked
    Artur Davis. but then Davis Fucked up big time.
    His race to lose, pandering to the right to much.
    Alabama ain't as dumb as folks think, plus the young
    set is really becoming involved. Gives me hope.

    •  Shariistuff (0+ / 0-)

      I like your take on things. Thanks for sharing. I hope you are right. Sparks does come across as a regular guy.

      I first became aware of him as the guy who was going to come after my fanny if I happened to drive off without paying at the gas station. As Ag commissioner, seemed like his name was always on the gas pump.

      As high as gas prices got during the Bush years, I thought about driving off a few times. But I didn't want to disappoint Ron Sparks.

      Surely, that says something positive about the guy.

  •  Exactly why the GOP is in trouble. (0+ / 0-)

    Let tyrants fear.-Queen Elizabeth I

    by Virginia mom on Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 10:43:04 AM PDT

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