There is evidence that Democratic voters are more energized than Republican voters in the Trump era, but turnout has varied in the different special elections held to replace members of Congress who left to serve in Trump’s administration.
In Georgia’s special election in June, Democratic voter turnout was higher than it had been in the same congressional district during the 2014 midterm elections. In the Kansas special election held in April, the Democratic vote decreased relative to the past midterm cycle in the same congressional district.
Sensing the potential for a win, some national Democrats, like Senator Cory Booker, have come to the state to campaign for Jones. That might not have happened if the race didn't look competitive. But the very fact that Jones is getting help from national Democratic figures could end up energizing Republican voters to get out the vote, especially in a hyper-partisan political environment.
Another factor that could boost Republican turnout: Trump has a higher approval rating in Alabama compared to how he’s ranked nationwide, and the president is all in for Moore. At a rally in Pensacola, Florida, a city near the Alabama border, on Friday, Trump implored anyone listening to “get out and vote for Roy Moore.”
“Republican base turnout might be depressed, but Republican voters might also end up rallying in support of Moore,” Tom Bonier, the CEO of Democratic data firm TargetSmart said. “Each poll presents a different potential outcome in turnout. It’s impossible to say which scenarios are more or less plausible, and therefore impossible to determine which polls are more likely to be predictive of the final outcome.”
The Republican establishment has created further uncertainty by sending mixed signals about the race. The Republican National Committee pulled its backing for Moore in November after the allegations surfaced, only to resume support for the candidate in early December. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did something similar. McConnell called on Moore to “step aside” in light of the allegations in mid-November. In December, McConnell said the decision is up to the voters of Alabama.
A few high-profile Republicans have opposed Moore even in the final days of the race. Alabama Senator Richard Shelby said over the weekend that he could not vote for Moore and that “the Republican Party can do better.” Senate Republican Cory Gardner said last week that the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which he chairs, would “never” support Moore. Gardner has said that if Moore wins, the Senate should vote to expel him.
If Democrats win the seat, it would be a major upset for such a deep red state. If Republicans hold onto it, the Senate GOP will have to grapple with the allegations against Moore. FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver wrote on Monday that “Moore is favored” to win, but that “Jones’s chances are probably somewhere in the same ballpark as Trump’s were of winning the Electoral College last November (about 30 percent).” In other words, it could go either way.