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Trump, Sessions, Bloomberg: Alabama takes political center stage

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, after saying in March that he wouldn't run for president, is backtracking and preparing a potential run for a 2020 bid, a spokesman for the billionaire tells CNN.

Posted: Nov 8, 2019 2:00 PM
Updated: Nov 8, 2019 2:00 PM

For a few days, Alabama is at the center of American politics.

The state's early deadline to qualify for the ballot forced a surprise decision this week: Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to file to run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in Alabama -- ensuring that he wouldn't be left off the ballot there.

The news came right after Jeff Sessions, the former Alabama senator and US attorney general, launched a bid to challenge Democratic Sen. Doug Jones for his old Senate seat -- defying the wishes of his former boss, President Donald Trump.

Trump, meanwhile, is set to head to Alabama this weekend. He'll attend the University of Alabama's home football game against Louisiana State University -- a match-up between the Associated Press' No. 1 and No. 2-ranked teams in the country.

His visit comes shortly after newly released internal documents revealed that the government weather forecasters who swatted down his incorrect claim that Hurricane Dorian was headed for Alabama did so without realizing he was the source of the misinformation.

The odd confluence of events has placed Alabama at the forefront of national politics late this week, and raised a series of questions for which the answers will unfold in the coming months.

Among them: How will Bloomberg, a billionaire many times over who is willing to spend his own money on a centrist campaign, change the Democratic presidential race? And can Sessions, who was fired by Trump, co-exist with his former boss -- or will Trump hammer his former attorney general so hard that Sessions loses the primary or Jones keeps his seat in the general election?

"We're like the center of the maelstrom of this episode of 'As American Burns,'" said David Mowery, an Alabama-based political consultant who has worked for candidates in both parties.

Alabama isn't a stranger to this role. In late 2017, the special election for Sessions' former Senate seat there dominated headlines. The race in the deep-red state was competitive largely because Roy Moore, the controversial former judge who won the Republican nomination, was imploding amid numerous allegations that he sexually assaulted teens while in his 30s. Those allegations, which Moore denied, cost the GOP the seat in a December 2017 special election.

The series of events on the GOP side can be traced back to the early stages of the 2016 Republican primary, when Sessions became the first senator to endorse Trump.

"It all kind of starts with 2015: Trump has a rally in Mobile with Jeff Sessions. And that was the spark that lit the flame that propelled him to the nomination, to the presidency," Mowery said.

Trump fired Sessions in November 2018, blaming the Alabama Republican for recusing himself in the Russia probe and allowing special counsel Robert Mueller to be appointed. A month after the firing, Trump tweeted, "Jeff Sessions should be ashamed of himself for allowing this total HOAX to get started in the first place!"

When asked on the White House lawn by CNN on Friday if he would endorse Sessions, Trump said, "I saw he said very nice things about me last night, but we'll have to see."

Trump's comments come after Sessions tried to ease tensions with Trump. Despite Trump firing him and publicly, and repeatedly, lambasting him by saying he'd made a mistake choosing him as attorney general, Sessions released a video expressing his continued support of the President.

"When I left President Trump's Cabinet, did I write a tell-all book? No. Did I go on CNN and attack the President? Nope," Sessions said in a video released by his campaign Thursday as he entered the Senate race. "Have I said a cross word about President Trump? Not one time. And I'll tell you why: First, that would be dishonorable. I was there to serve his agenda, not mine. Second, the President is doing a great job for America and Alabama, and he has my strong support."

Later in the video, Sessions said: "When President Trump took on Washington, only one senator out of 100 had the courage to stand with him: me. I was the first to support President Trump. I was his strongest advocate. I still am."

But the Alabama GOP Senate primary field is already crowded, with Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne, secretary of state John Merrill, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville and Moore.

And Sessions' entrance doesn't appear to have chased off anyone.

"It's going to be hard to get elected in a Republican primary in Alabama when a Republican president with over 90% approval rating among primary voters has said just the last few weeks that Jeff Sessions is an embarrassment to the great state of Alabama. He's going to have a hard time with that," Byrne told reporters in Alabama this week.

It's all coming to a head around a college football game for primacy in the Southeastern Conference, with Trump on hand.

"That game alone would be huge," Mowery said. "You layer the president over it. And then you've got this whole subplot of Sessions, the president's bête noire, jumping in."

"The Bloomberg thing is just a whole 'nother level of bananas," he said.

Bloomberg this week sent aides to collect the signatures required to qualify for the Alabama ballot for the state's primary on Super Tuesday -- March 3. Next week, he'll need to file in Arkansas and New Hampshire.

Those early deadlines mean potential last-minute entrants into the 2020 presidential race were essentially out of time to make up their minds.

Alabama could be a competitive state in the Democratic primary. Along with other southern states, its Democratic electorate is largely black -- a constituency that former Vice President Joe Biden has performed strongly with as he competes with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the top tier of national polls.

That primary in Alabama would take place on the same day as the GOP's Senate primary.

"It seems like it's just going to get crazier from here," Mowery said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 341862

Reported Deaths: 7533
CountyCasesDeaths
Hinds23783441
DeSoto23180283
Harrison20365329
Rankin15307290
Jackson15087251
Madison10917227
Lee10674179
Jones8969169
Forrest8621159
Lauderdale7839243
Lowndes7016151
Lamar696289
Lafayette6535124
Washington5589139
Pearl River5141152
Bolivar4949134
Oktibbeha491698
Panola4766112
Warren4709127
Marshall4691106
Pontotoc446273
Union432579
Monroe4322137
Neshoba4268181
Hancock423788
Lincoln4171116
Pike3650113
Leflore3619125
Tate352888
Alcorn349574
Sunflower347194
Adams340588
Scott340176
Yazoo338575
Copiah323468
Simpson322090
Itawamba314180
Coahoma313385
Tippah304768
Prentiss297863
Covington291883
Leake284675
Marion283681
Wayne276143
George270551
Grenada268888
Newton261564
Tishomingo239370
Winston236584
Jasper229548
Attala225973
Stone225337
Chickasaw218760
Holmes199274
Clay196754
Clarke186280
Tallahatchie183742
Calhoun181232
Smith178935
Yalobusha171340
Walthall145348
Lawrence141626
Greene139734
Amite136943
Noxubee134835
Perry133238
Montgomery132244
Carroll125931
Webster121032
Jefferson Davis116234
Tunica113427
Benton106225
Claiborne105031
Kemper102329
Humphreys100133
Franklin87723
Quitman84619
Choctaw82319
Wilkinson77732
Jefferson71128
Sharkey51618
Issaquena1736
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 577463

Reported Deaths: 11510
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson841981589
Mobile47171860
Madison37047533
Tuscaloosa26915465
Shelby26873256
Montgomery25918625
Baldwin24499328
Lee16949181
Calhoun15252332
Morgan15017290
Etowah14778370
Marshall12933235
Houston11774292
Elmore10761217
St. Clair10617252
Limestone10574158
Cullman10363205
Lauderdale10083254
DeKalb9382191
Talladega8836188
Walker7681287
Autauga7479114
Jackson7317117
Blount7266139
Colbert6635142
Coffee6163132
Dale5453117
Russell470642
Chilton4682117
Covington4649125
Franklin450081
Tallapoosa4440156
Escambia427882
Chambers3898125
Dallas3717163
Clarke367763
Marion3427106
Pike327879
Lawrence3225101
Winston294973
Bibb284565
Geneva276383
Marengo259967
Barbour246261
Pickens240062
Butler238272
Hale232778
Fayette225264
Henry209245
Monroe197241
Randolph196744
Cherokee196348
Washington180139
Macon168752
Crenshaw165558
Clay163759
Cleburne160245
Lamar149938
Lowndes144854
Wilcox130531
Bullock126142
Conecuh119630
Coosa116929
Perry109928
Sumter109032
Greene98736
Choctaw64325
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Clear
94° wxIcon
Hi: 97° Lo: 75°
Feels Like: 108°
Columbus
Clear
93° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 74°
Feels Like: 107°
Oxford
Clear
91° wxIcon
Hi: 95° Lo: 72°
Feels Like: 102°
Starkville
Partly Cloudy
91° wxIcon
Hi: 96° Lo: 73°
Feels Like: 102°
Friday we will see the hottest and most humid day of the week. We will see many areas top off in the 105 to 115 degree heat index. Some areas will approach 120. Very little chances for some isolated showers and thunderstorms for the late portion of the afternoon.
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WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather