Republican Roy Moore will almost certainly defeat Democrat Doug Jones in the Dec. 12 Alabama special election for U.S. Senate because of one man: former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, a Republican from Kansas.
That may sound like a stretch, but allow me to connect the dots. They are not obvious to the naked eye, without a nudge from the history books.
There’s one overriding reason Moore will beat Jones, despite the Republican’s alleged sexual exploits with teenage girls. Moore is staunchly opposed to abortion in a state where half of Republicans describe themselves as evangelical Christians. It is abortion, I submit, that will in the end give Moore the victory.
You may wonder what that has to do with Dole. Those of us who are old enough to remember, or are history buffs, will recall the earth-shaking 1974 campaign for U.S. Senate in Kansas between Dole and Democrat Bill Roy. Roy was both a doctor — an obstetrician and gynecologist — and a lawyer. He also had served in Congress. Dole was the incumbent senator.
Kansas had not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1932. In fact, Kansas today has the longest streak without a Democratic senator of any state in the U.S.
As the Dole-Roy race reached its zenith, Roy was ahead in the polls. It was shaping up to be a monumental upset. But Dole had a card that had never been played. Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that allowed abortions to be legal, had become the law of the land in 1973, just a year before this race. No national candidate had ever used abortion as a campaign issue, let alone made it the key issue.
In the last weeks before election, Dole brought abortion into his campaign, attacking OB-GYN Roy for performing thousands of abortions. Although the Dole campaign gave the impression Roy had performed many abortions, one of the Democrat’s top campaign advisers says Roy may have legally performed “less than a handful” of abortions, and only under dire circumstances.
As a young publisher in Johnson County, I recall an anti-abortion, pro-Dole advertisement placed in our family newspaper with a skull and crossbones displayed prominently. So revolutionary was this kind of attack that NBC sent a news crew from New York to interview me about the ugly campaign, and the cameras zoomed in on the ad for the nation to see.
Then, the Sunday right before the election, a swarm of Republican volunteers throughout Kansas headed to church parking lots and placed flyers on every car windshield, accusing Roy of being a “baby killer.”
That barrage of anti-abortion advertising in the late stages of the campaign turned the tide, but barely. Dole won by only about 2 percentage points with 50.9 percent of the vote. But Dole had turned a deficit into victory. Without abortion as the key issue, Roy almost certainly would have made history as a Democratic senator representing Kansas.
For many Republicans in Alabama, the choice will be whether to vote against a man who is a disgrace to humanity or hold their noses and vote for the man who will protect the humanity of the unborn.
Faced with a choice between an “evil” alleged child molester and an “evil” pro-abortion Democrat, the vast majority of Republicans in a very Republican state likely will vote for the man who has promised to try to overturn Roe v. Wade.
And those U.S. senators who have threatened to deny Moore a seat in the Senate will melt in fear. They will be afraid of Republicans nationwide whose No. 1 priority is the elimination of abortions and also fearful of the wrath of Republicans who believe the will of the voters in Alabama should be sacrosanct.
As the election nears, Moore has elevated his rhetoric on abortion, aiming to make the issue the linchpin of his campaign. If Moore prevails, as he undoubtedly will, he should be tipping his hat to Bob Dole.
This column originally misstated Dole’s and Roy’s backgrounds entering the 1974 election. It has also been updated to reflect how a top Roy campaign adviser described abortions the doctor performed.