Why north Alabama takes center stage in the GOP Senate Primary Runoff

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – President Donald Trump will hold a rally in Huntsville Friday night to campaign for Senator Luther Strange as he tries to overtake firebrand challenger Roy Moore, the state’s former Chief Justice. But Trump’s rally isn’t making Huntsville the focal point. It’s an illustration that the Rocket City is already one of the most pivotal battlegrounds.

In the first round of primary voting, Roy Moore finished with 39% of the vote. Senator Luther Strange finished with 33% of the vote.

Perhaps the best chance for Strange to stem that tide comes from Madison County and the surrounding areas. If Moore can hold the dam in the area, it’s unlikely Strange can make up enough ground elsewhere to overtake him.

After all, abysmal turnout meant the difference between the two and came down to roughly 28,000 votes in the first round.

Huntsville’s own Representative Mo Brooks accounted for 20% of the state total or just over 82,000 votes.

However, almost half of the Brooks votes came strictly from north Alabama. Madison County, with Huntsville at its center, had more than 19,000 votes for Brooks.

Representative Brooks has formally endorsed Roy Moore.

That said, Madison County voters favored Strange heavily over Moore in the first round of voting. Luther Strange pulled 27% of the county’s vote, while Moore only garnered 19%.

It was Roy Moore’s weakest performance in any county in the state.

So from a distance, you find 19,000 available votes in one county and that county favors Strange by 8%. Plus, the county seems to have a particular distaste for Moore, making it a natural target for the Strange campaign.

The President’s rally has another potential upside for Strange. The single biggest gains in Alabama for Republicans in the 2016 presidential vote happened in nearby Lawrence, Jackson, Franklin, and Colbert Counties.

Roy Moore won all of them in the first round of voting.

If the president’s endorsement holds sway anywhere in the state, it would likely be in those counties.

So the president’s visit brings fireworks to the Rocket City and Alabama politics, but it also comes from a careful calculation targeting an important political battleground.