What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

For Alabama, tight Senate election is about state’s identity and future

How do Alabama voters see the allegations of sexual assault against Roy Moore? Judy Woodruff gets an update from Robert Costa of The Washington Post on what voters are saying ahead of Tuesday’s contest, President Trump’s influence and why this race matters.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    But first to Alabama and next Tuesday's special election for a U.S. Senate seat.

    This is the race whose trajectory turned after nine women came forward to accuse Republican candidate Roy Moore of sexual misconduct, many when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.

    One of those women, Beverly Nelson, appeared today with attorney Gloria Allred. Nelson said nearly a month ago that Moore groped and assaulted her when she was 16, and that he had written a message in her high school yearbook just days before.

    Today, Nelson and Allred discussed the yearbook and reaction to Nelson's allegation.

  • Gloria Allred:

    According to forensic handwriting and document examiner Arthur T. Anthony, the significant and the handwritten notation above the signature were prepared by Roy Moore.

  • Beverly Young Nelson:

    Since I spoke about my experience with Roy Moore when I was only 16 years old, I have been the target of threats and lies.

    A talk radio host said that I should be put in a town square and stoned, and he said he wanted to be the first to throw the largest stone at me.

    Someone even sent me a photo of a casket, which I took as a threat. As a result, I have had to live behind triple-locked doors, tinted windows. I have had to even have security accompany me when I went to a doctor's appointment.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Roy Moore's campaign pushed back within hours. In a press conference, Moore's lawyer maintained his client's innocence. He said Moore has suffered, too.

  • Phillip Jauregui:

    I remember the day that the accusations were made. I didn't get to see Judge Moore in person, but I saw him on TV. He came out of church, he was with his wife, and he was with his mom.

    And I will never forget the look on his mom's face when they walked out. So this has been horrible. It's been absolutely horrible for Judge Moore, his wife, his mom, his daughter, his sons, his granddaughters, his friends, his church members, people across the state of Alabama that have known him for so long.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Here now to talk about all this is Robert Costa, reporter for The Washington Post and, of course, host of PBS' Washington Week. Robert was in Alabama reporting this week.

    So, Robert, this back and forth between these women who have made these accusations and the Moore campaign is getting so much attention here in Washington and nationally, but how much talk is there about it in Alabama?

  • Robert Costa:

    On the ground in Alabama, Judy, it's a bit of a different scene, in the sense that Alabama voters I spoke to on the ground over the last four days say this race is not about the latest development in a yearbook or what an accuser of Roy Moore has said today or yesterday.

    It's about identity. It's about the identity of the state, Alabama's past vs. Alabama's future, as much as it is Democrat vs. Republican. And this is one of the tightest races I have seen, even in the Deep South.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, what does it look like to you? You're not saying these women's allegations have no effect on the campaign, are you?

  • Robert Costa:

    Oh, no, these are credible allegations from nine women and they have rocked Alabama politics. And they're having an effect on the race because they're making many Republican voters, suburban Republican voters in Mobile and Birmingham and Huntsville, question their own partisan affiliations.

    And when I was covering Doug Jones, the Democrat on the ground, he was really courting them, reaching out to them and saying, can the state survive, with its business environment and bringing big companies in, if we have Roy Moore as U.S. senator?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You started to talk, Robert, about the messages from both of the campaigns. What are they saying to voters in these final days before the election?

  • Robert Costa:

    Roy Moore, he is revving up the base. He's hoping to hear some more support from President Trump tonight. The president will be in Pensacola, Florida.

    The Democrats are looking for African-American Democrats in urban areas to turn out in strong numbers. It's a special election, so they want to make sure turnout is not as it usually is in special elections, historically low.

    They also are trying to court those Republican voters, get them to switch parties. The biggest hangup for Doug Jones, his position on abortion. He supports abortion rights. And in a state like Alabama, that's a difficult hurdle for some voters to clear on the conservative side.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, you mentioned President Trump.

    As you said, he is right across the border tonight. How much of an effect is he having on this race?

  • Robert Costa:

    It's a major effect, because you saw President Trump for a few weeks after the allegations first surfaced. He was taking a wait-and-see approach, but now he has a full-throated endorsement of Roy Moore.

    And for Republican voters in Alabama who are looking for a cue from the White House, they sure got it. He's only a few miles away in the Panhandle of Florida tonight. Those Republican officials in Alabama that I have spoken to, they are counting on Trump voters to turn out. They may not love Roy Moore, they may have some questions about his character, but they believe that if they vote for Moore, they can support the Trump agenda.

    That's the way why Republican like Governor Kay Ivey believe Roy Moore can win.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    You know, Robert, this election is getting so much attention, we almost have to remind ourselves that it's a special election to replace Senator Jeff Sessions, who, of course, stepped down to go to — to become attorney general.

    Is it getting that much attention from voters? Is there expected to be a high turnout?

  • Robert Costa:

    I went to diner after diner, to different community centers and churches. This race, Judy, I would say, verges — it's almost on the brink of contesting Alabama football at this time of year as being a major topic in the state.

    Everybody is talking about it, because they believe it's bigger than R vs. D. This is about, how is Alabama going to see itself, how is the country going to see Alabama?

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Robert Costa, and we will be hearing much more from you a little bit later on "Washington Week." Thank you.

  • Robert Costa:

    Thank you.

Listen to this Segment