Voters in Alabama are headed to the polls today to choose a new U.S. senator to replace Jeff Sessions, who became Attorney General in the Trump administration. It's been one of the ugliest races in recent memory, with unproven allegations of sexual misconduct against Republican Roy Moore that supposedly occurred 40 years ago.
The race won't change control of the Senate (the GOP controls the chamber now with a 52-48 margin), but all eyes are on 2018, when the balance of power could shift. And Democrats are salivating at the prospect of adding Doug Jones to their ranks as key battles over President Trump's tax plan and budget come to a head on Capitol Hill.
Here are the five things you gotta' know:
Forget the polls. Nobody knows what's going to happen in this race — not even the pollsters. The polls have been all over the place. A Fox News poll released on Monday showed Jones leading Moore by 10 points, 50-40. But two polls released on Saturday showed Moore leading Jones, one by 5 points, the other by 4.
Exactly a week ago, one poll showed Moore with a 7-point lead, another put Jones up by 4.
So forget the polls and pick 'em.
It's all about turnout (as what election isn't?). Will the disturbing (and numerous) reports about sexual misconduct swirling around Moore keep Republicans at home? Will Democrats really swarm the polls?
Nobody knows. While Alabama voters have been inundated with commercials about the race, turnout in special elections — especially one just two weeks before Christmas — is usually low. The Alabama secretary of state predicts just 20% to 25% of voters will vote on Tuesday.
What's more, weather is a factor. It's cold on Election Day across the state and some areas are still digging out of a mini-snow blast of five inches just a few days ago, not common for the warm-weather residents.
Will Trump's endorsement help or hurt Moore? Unlike lots of the other special elections that have taken place since Trump took office, the president most definitely has skin in the game. Despite the dangers of jumping into the controversial race, Trump plunged in with both feet, enthusiastically endorsing Moore.
On Tuesday, as voters headed to the polls, Trump posted on Twitter:
While the liberal mainstream has tried to paint other GOP losses as bad for Trump, they weren't. But this one would be should Moore lose. And Trump knows it — which is why held a weekend rally in Pensacola, Fla., just 15 miles from the Alabama border.
Trump carried Alabama by nearly 28 points in 2016, and people there still like him. A Moore loss will definitely hurt.
Is Steve Bannon the leader of the Republican Party? Of course not, but the former Trump adviser and current editor of the right-wing website Breitbart News has put all his eggs in the Moore basket. He's crisscrossed the state delivering impassioned speeches about why Alabamans should vote for the 70-year-old Moore.
“They want to destroy Judge Moore. And you know why? They want to take away your voice. If they can destroy Roy Moore, they can destroy you,” Bannon said in a speech last week.
National Republicans bailed on Moore shortly after the sexual allegations emerged, including Senate leaders like Sen. Mitch McConnell. Bannon, though, doubled down hard, with some success. So far, Bannon's vocal support has forced McConnell to soften his stance and prompted the Republican National Committee to back Moore, despite early objections.
Come midnight Tuesday, Republicans will know who's really leading the party.
Which way will women vote? The climate in 2017 has changed dramatically, with Hollywood moguls and elected officials of both parties taken down by sexual misconduct allegations. While the charges against Moore are unproven and he vehemently denies them, there sure is a lot of smoke surrounded him just as voters go to the polls.
In 2016, 53% of white women voted for Trump, the Washington Post reported. And Trump, like Moore, had faced his own charges of sexual misconduct. While black women went heavily for Hillary Clinton, if Moore can hold the margin with white women, he'll be well on his way to victory — provided they turn out, of course.
Still, a majority of white women (51%) supported Republican Ed Gillespie in the Virginia gubernatorial race, and he lost in November.
Oh, and Trump had endorsed Gillespie.
The bottom line: Only Alabamans know which way this race will go. But tonight, pop up some popcorn and pull up a chair — it's going to be a fun show.