Former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville leads former Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMcCabe, Rosenstein spar over Russia probe Rosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony Rosenstein defends Mueller appointment, role on surveillance warrants MORE by a dozen points in the runoff for the Republican Senate nomination in Alabama, according to a new poll by Cygnal.
Tuberville was supported by 52 percent of likely GOP primary election voters who said they were going to vote in the runoff, while Sessions was backed by 40 percent, according to the poll from the Republican research firm.
Both candidates failed to get 50 percent of the vote in the primary last week, forcing a runoff on March 31. Tuberville had 33 percent of the vote in the primary, and Sessions trailed by less than 2 points.
The winner of the runoff election will face Sen. Doug Jones (D) in November. Jones is largely thought to be the most vulnerable Democratic senator up for reelection this year. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report currently rates the seat as “lean Republican.”
Sessions held the Alabama Senate seat for more than two decades but departed to become attorney general at the start of President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE’s term.
But Sessions quickly fell out of favor with the president when he recused himself from the Russia investigation, departing the Department of Justice in 2018.
Trump stayed out of the primary election but criticized Sessions after it became known that there would be a runoff election.
“This is what happens to someone who loyally gets appointed Attorney General of the United States & then doesn’t have the wisdom or courage to stare down & end the phony Russia Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted.
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The Cygnal poll also showed 45 percent of Republican primary voters believe Trump is opposed to having Sessions in the Senate, while 16 percent disagreed.
“Jeff Sessions’ unfavorability has continued to increase among GOP Primary voters over the course of the primary season,” said Brent Buchanan, Cygnal’s CEO and founder. “Now that Trump has gotten involved, it’s unlikely the former attorney general will be able to overcome the gap in how voters see Tuberville’s as more strongly favorable. Trump may not be able to pull a candidate across the finish line, but he sure can keep a candidate from getting there first.”
The poll surveyed 645 respondents from March 6 to 8 and has a margin of error of 3.8 percentage points.