Alabama Senate Memo: Return of the Civil War and the Fall of Mitch McConnell

Jordan Gehrke
Sep 27, 2017 · 5 min read

To: Interested Parties

From: Jordan Gehrke, A Time for Choosing PAC

Date: September 26, 2017

Re: Alabama Senate Memo: Return of the Civil War and the Fall of Mitch McConnell

Roy Moore’s victory in the Alabama Senate race is a stunning rebuke to Mitch McConnell and the Washington establishment.

Tonight should cause the President and the Senate Republican Conference to seriously evaluate whether or not McConnell has either the vision or political acumen to lead the Senate Republican Conference any longer. There is a good argument to be made that McConnell is now a dead weight around the necks of GOP Senators who have to face an angry GOP base in 2018.

But let’s back up to the beginning of the story.

The Primary:

My firm was retained by Mo Brooks for Senate in Alabama. In the weeks before the campaign began in earnest, Mitch McConnell and his political team threatened GOP consultants and made clear that any consultant working against Luther Strange would be punished with a loss of business. Despite this — just on principle — our firm chose to proceed anyway.

McConnell and his SuperPAC, Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) spent over four million dollars in the primary on attacking and ultimately defeating our client Mo Brooks.

The race was a dead heat between Brooks and Strange for the final runoff spot until President Trump endorsed Luther Strange.

When President Trump finally made his endorsement, the Brooks campaign immediately pivoted all messaging to attacking Mitch McConnell and making clear Trump’s endorsement came at McConnell’s behest.

We did so because our polling told us Alabama Republicans were deeply hostile to Mitch McConnell.

We asked this question:

Q. Does Mitch McConnell’s endorsement of Luther Strange make you more or less likely to vote for Luther Strange?

11% More Likely

56% Less Likely

32% No Difference

Despite Trump’s endorsement, the Sunday night before the Primary, the race was still essentially tied.

Ultimately, Mitch McConnell and his team managed to convince Trump to double down for Luther again the day before the election, and that was enough to drag Strange across the finish line. But we learned something very important during the primary: If you want to win Senate primaries, put Mitch McConnell on the ballot.

Once the Runoff started, we were retained by A Time for Choosing to help Roy Moore. We were in a unique position. We knew who the Roy Moore voters were, we knew who the Luther Strange voters were, we knew who the Very Conservative voters were, the America First voters, Evangelicals, etc. Most importantly, we knew exactly who the Mo Brooks voters were. Simply put: we had more data on every single key audience in the Primary than anyone else in the race had.

Our strategy was simple: finish what we started in the Primary by using our existing knowledge of the electorate and continue to reinforce the message begun in the Primary: “If you want to reward Mitch McConnell, vote for Luther Strange. If you want to send a message to Washington, vote for Roy Moore.”

This had a powerful impact. It effectively flipped McConnell and SLF’s attacks so that every time they saw a negative ad attacking Roy Moore, voters understood that these were just more dishonest attacks being paid for by Mitch McConnell and the DC Swamp.

The foundation was partially laid in the Primary when Brooks and Moore both did a very effective job of referring to these attack ads as “Luther Strange’s attack ads” whenever asked about them. Not for a minute was Luther Strange ever allowed to argue that he was not responsible for the content of these attacks.

Senate Conservatives Fund did a great job of stepping in with a powerfully effective ad in the final days of the campaign, hammering home this message: this race was all about Roy Moore and Alabama Conservatives vs. Mitch McConnell and the Swamp.

This victory also belongs to Talk Radio: Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham were all in very early for Brooks in the Primary and then pivoted to backing Moore once the runoff began. Levin was particularly effective at constantly hammering the message on the radio inside Alabama that this race was a battle between Mitch McConnell and the Alabama grassroots and that the choice was clear.

This was such an effective attack that Luther Strange actually tried to claim Friday night at his rally with President Trump that he did not even know Mitch McConnell — despite McConnell’s PAC spending nearly 8 million dollars for him by Primary Day.

Voter Contact:

By Runoff Day, we had made 1,078,050 IVR/ID dials via IVR, along with 131,782 Live calls, with over 70,000 persuasion messages delivered Live, primarily to cell phones.

Combined with previous data we had access to, we have over 14,000 Roy Moore IDs, and in excess of 30,000 unique IDs for purposes of the GOTV (in addition to stratified DMA and Social Conservative Profile work).

We also invested heavily in digital advertising, particularly on mobile.

As of today, we had delivered 1,123,122 display impressions on ads like this one to key audiences.

We knew exactly who the voters that mattered were from the Primary, and we were able to target them down to the device level. We also created look-alike audiences based on the IDs we had and were able to use them to target thousands more similar voters.

Election Day:

Despite what Mitch McConnell and Senate Leadership Fund will tell you, this was nothing less than a stunning loss for Mitch McConnell tonight. He and his team at Senate Leadership Fund invested millions on a deep Red seat that Republicans were never in danger of losing, simply so that Mitch McConnell would have another loyal vote in his pocket. They threatened people, they wasted money, and they misled President Trump into thinking this race was close.

Finally, more stunning than McConnell’s loss is the way that he lost. Roy Moore did not win despite McConnell’s opposition, he won because of McConnell’s opposition. Going all the way back to the Primary, both Roy Moore and Mo Brooks promised that if elected, they would not support McConnell for Leader under any circumstances. They won because of open defiance to the Majority Leader. This is simply unprecedented.

In today’s exit polling, we asked the question of Alabama voters, “Did Mitch McConnell’s support of Luther Strange make you more or less likely to support Strange?”

25% More Likely

55% Less Likely

In the end, Mitch McConnell’s support was a more than 2–1 net negative for Luther Strange.

Tonight’s victory for Roy Moore was not simply an isolated incident: the Alabama Senate race will now become a playbook for conservative outsiders across the country. They now know that if they put Mitch McConnell on the ballot, they can beat him.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans on the ballot this year should be asking themselves, “Is it really worth losing my seat over my loyalty to Mitch McConnell?” Ask Luther Strange how that worked out.


Mitch McConnell has had a bad week, and it’s only Tuesday.

McConnell failed to repeal ObamaCare again yesterday. Tonight, Alabama voters have handed him a stunning defeat. There is blood in the water now, and more conservative candidates who are hostile to the establishment are primed to step forward.

Republicans now have a choice: 2018 will either be a successful year with the GOP focused on picking up Democratic seats and passing a conservative agenda, or it will be a bloody Civil War with Mitch McConnell at the center, desperately clinging to power, forcing incumbent Senators to walk the plank out of loyalty to him.

If Mitch McConnell cares about the Republican Party, he should resign now.

If not, out of self preservation alone, the Senate GOP Conference should tell Mitch McConnell, “You’re fired.”

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