By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Mike Durant, the retired Army helicopter pilot of “Black Hawk Down” fame, leads a new poll in the race for U.S. Senate, with former Business Council of Alabama President Katie Britt running a close second and Congressman Mo Brooks falling far behind.
In a survey of likely Republican voters, 34.6% said they would vote for Durant if the election was held today, while 28.4% chose Britt and 16.1% chose Brooks. Just 14.1% remain undecided.
The poll was conducted by Cygnal on behalf of Alabama Daily News and Gray Television.
For Brooks, who for months has been considered the frontrunner in the race, the results show a precipitous slide. The same poll in August showed him leading the race with 40.8% of the vote. That’s a 24.7% drop in almost eight months.
In that same span, Britt has picked up more than 11 points from 17.7% in August. Durant was not included in the August poll because he was not a candidate at the time, demonstrating the swiftness of his ascent from unknown to frontrunner.
Brooks’ slide comes after several weeks of television and radio advertising attacking the Huntsville congressman on a number of issues, most notably comments he made in opposition to former President Donald Trump during the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
If the Republican primary election for U.S. Senate were held today, and you had to make a choice, who would you vote for?
One anomaly standing out in the survey is Lillie Boddie, a virtual unknown, polling at 6.5%. Cygnal pollster John Rogers speculated that voters could be confusing the name for Lindy Blanchard, who switched from the Senate race to the governor’s race in January and has been heavily advertising on TV and radio. Eight percent of women and 14% of voters 70 years and older chose Boddie.
“There is a small group of voters over the age of 70 who are confusing Lillie Boddie and Lindy Blanchard,” Rogers said. “They catch the tail end of a Blanchard TV ad, but may not precisely remember the name or relevant campaign a few weeks later, especially since Blanchard has run ads for both Governor and Senate. That confusion will dissipate as we enter the home stretch of the campaign and these voters begin to pay closer attention to the primary elections for both Senate and Governor.”
The survey also tested head-to-head runoff scenarios between the top three candidates. Both Durant and Britt held considerable advantages over Brooks. Durant led Britt by double digits in their runoff scenario.
And if the Republican primary election for U.S. Senate went to a runoff and the candidateswere Mike Durant and Mo Brooks, who would you vote for?
|Definitely Mike Durant||37.6%|
|Probably Mike Durant||19.7%|
|Definitely Mo Brooks||12.2%|
|Probably Mo Brooks||11.2%|
|Total Mo Brooks||23.3%|
And if the Republican primary election for U.S. Senate went to a runoff and the candidates were Mo Brooks and Katie Britt, who would you vote for?
|Definitely Katie Britt||33.7%|
|Probably Katie Britt||16.9%|
|Total Katie Britt||50.6%|
|Definitely Mo Brooks||19.1%|
|Probably Mo Brooks||9.2%|
|Total Mo Brooks||28.3%|
And if the Republican primary election for U.S. Senate went to a runoff and the candidates were Mike Durant and Katie Britt, who would you vote for?
|Definitely Mike Durant||33.1%|
|Probably Mike Durant||14.2%|
|Definitely Katie Britt||23.4%|
|Probably Katie Britt||10.7%|
The survey also tested the popularity of former President Donald Trump and the potency of his endorsement among GOP voters. Trump remains exceedingly popular among Alabama Republicans, with 79.8% saying they have a favorable opinion of him while 16.9% said they had an unfavorable opinion. Compare that to the August poll, when Trump polled at 83.7% favorable versus 15% unfavorable.
Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Donald Trump?
The potency of Trump’s endorsement in Alabama political races has waned, however. Just 39.1% of Republicans say Trump’s endorsement would make them more likely to support a candidate, while 42.4% said it would make no difference. That’s a significant change from August, when a full 57.7% said Trump’s endorsement made it more likely they’d support a candidate.
Would Donald Trump’s endorsement of a candidate in Alabama make you more or less likely to support that candidate?
|Much more likely||22.5%|
|Somewhat more likely||16.6%|
|Total more likely||39.1%|
|Makes no difference||42.4%|
|Somewhat less likely||4.5%|
|Much less likely||9.4%|
|Total less likely||13.8%|
This new information comes as the former president’s pick in the race may be in flux. Trump told Washington Examiner reporter David Drucker that he was considering taking back his endorsement of Brooks and taking a look at the other two candidates.
Finally, the survey tested Republican voters’ approval of U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, whose retirement is the reason for this Senate race. Brooks and Durant have at times attacked Britt for her work as Shelby’s chief of staff. But Shelby remains relatively popular among Republican voters with 56.7% saying they approve of the job he has done over his 30-year career in the Senate.
As you may know, Senator Richard Shelby is retiring this year after 30 years in the Senate. Do you approve or disapprove of the way Richard Shelby has served Alabama as Senator?
|Neither approve or disapprove||15.2%|
The survey was conducted by Cygnal, an award-winning polling and predictive analysis firm based in Washington, D.C. 600 likely Republican voters were surveyed March 16-17 via interactive voice response and text message. The poll carries a margin for error of +/-4%.
TV and radio advertising tells the story
According to ADN’s latest analysis of advertising data, Durant and political groups advocating for him make up the biggest spending block in the race.
Durant’s campaign has spent $1,979,096 in television and radio advertising to date. A pro-Durant super PAC called Alabama Patriots PAC has spent more with $2,153,174. That’s total positive spending of more than $4.1 million, a whopping figure in an Alabama primary so far.
The Katie Britt campaign is second in television and radio spending at $1,163,308 to date. There are two pro-Britt super PACs running ads promoting her candidacy. Alabama Christian Conservatives Fund has spent $239,540 in pro-Britt ads and Alabama Conservatives Fund has spent $1,376,662. That brings total pro-Britt TV and radio advertising to $2.7 million, an impressive amount that is still dwarfed by Durant.
The Mo Brooks campaign has spent $63,111 on TV and radio advertising to date, which isn’t much at all. However, Brooks is bolstered by multiple supportive PACs, including the Club for Growth Action PAC that has spent $2,482,475 both in support of Brooks and against Britt. Also, the School Freedom Fund has spent $536,389 in support of Brooks.
Notably, Alabama Futures PAC has also spent $2,482,495 on TV and radio attacking Brooks, a factor that has clearly led to his downfall in the polls.
So far, only Durant has not been the subject of attack ads on TV and radio.
- Pro-Mike Durant TV and Radio: $4,132,270
- Pro-Katie Britt TV and Radio: $2,779,510
- Pro-Mo Brooks TV and Radio: $599,900
- Anti-Mo Brooks TV and Radio: $2,482,495
- Pro-Mo Brooks / Anti-Katie Britt: $2,482,475