Former judge Roy Moore's favorability ratings with Alabama women have dropped significantly in the past few weeks — but that ultimately may not mean much.
The first survey from a major pollster since The Washington Post broke the story that the U.S. Senate candidate initiated sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl reveals that women are not supporting Moore at the level they were before the allegations were revealed.
Rep. Terri Sewell (D.-Ala.) told the Fix that Alabama women deserve better than Moore.
“All Alabama voters – not just women – deserve a representative that we can trust, who will fight for our shared values, and who can get right to work in the Senate on the issues facing our state and nation without distractions," she said. "Alabama citizens can do better than a man representing us in the United States Senate who has preyed upon teenage girls and women, and I have called on Roy Moore to drop out of the Senate race."
"As Alabamians, we should send a clear message that we have zero tolerance for sexual abuse and predatory behavior," Sewell added.
“The shifts by gender are dramatic. Among registered voters, men preferred Moore by two points in October and women preferred Jones by three. Now, men prefer Moore by nine and women prefer Jones by 23 — a 20-point increase.”
But not approving of someone's behavior doesn't necessarily mean that a person won't vote for a candidate.
Heading into the 2016 presidential election, only 33 percent of women registered to vote had favorable views of Trump, according to a Post-ABC poll the week before the election — less than month after a tape was released of Trump bragging about grabbing women.
But in the end, 41 percent of women voted for Trump. And the majority of working-class women with no college degree — 61 percent — ended up backing Trump over Hillary Clinton, the first woman to win a major party's presidential nomination.
At a post-election conference at Harvard, Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the president, said women and other Trump supporters didn't allow Trump's offensive comments about women to sway them.
“Voters were being told constantly: 'Stare at this. Care about this. Make this the dealbreaker once and for all,' ” she said. “And they were told that five or six times a week about different things. And yet they went, they voted the way voters have always voted — on things that affect them, not just things that offend them.”
It is possible that Moore could see a similar outcome.
Dozens of women gathered Friday at the “Women for Moore” news conference at the State Capitol in Montgomery to show their continued support for the Senate candidate.
Kayla Moore, the candidate's wife, told supporters at the rally that her husband is the best person to represent the women of Alabama in Washington.
“He was a graduate of West Point and served our country in Vietnam, and he has always been an officer and a gentleman,” she said. “He is a loving father and a grandfather. Most important, he is a Christian. Let me set the record straight. Even after all the attacks against me and my family . . . he will not step down.”
Wetumpka Tea Party founder Becky Gerritson told supporters she organized the event to show the media just how many women have favorable views of Moore.
“I assure you, we could have filled these steps with hundreds, if not thousands, of women who could attest to Roy Moore's professionalism, respectful behavior and good character,” she said.
And Ann Eubank, chair of Alabama Legislative Watchdogs, said that if Moore loses, the consequences are massive.
“A Democrat must not be seated. If these accusers are not telling the truth and if Roy Moore is defeated, Alabama is the victim,” she said. “If a far-left, liberal Democrat Doug Jones is elected, America is the victim.”
For many women in Alabama, this race is about just that: keeping a Democrat out of office.
And while the women at Friday's events were careful not to blame Moore's accusers, they focused on what they thought was most important — getting a staunch conservative Republican into the Senate.
But Katie Shuey, state coordinator for Women’s March Alabama, told The Fix that she hopes women in her state look at this race and conclude that one of the best ways to keep men accused of sexually harassing girls and women out of politics is for more women to get involved in politics themselves.
“It is our hope that the recent allegations against various leaders, both within and outside of Alabama, will encourage the public to more carefully consider candidates,” she said. “This issue isn’t just about Mr. Moore — it is about a pattern of harassment and assault. Our hope is that we see more candidates with clean slates running for office, including more women who can better shape our laws to protect women and girls from this very behavior.”
“Dismissing claims of harassment and assault is not a viable option when dozens have corroborated the stories of the victims,” Shuey added.
Only time will tell whether approval ratings for Moore continue to decline before the Dec. 12 special election. But if the Senate hopeful makes it to Capitol Hill (and is allowed to stay), women will be paying attention to his policy decisions that affect them most — perhaps especially a new bill that came after a public hearing in which female lawmakers described sexual harassment as a pervasive problem and suggested current members of Congress have engaged in misconduct.
Correction: An earlier version of this post said the “Women for Moore” rally was in Birmingham. It was in Montgomery.