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Trump Rallies For Roy Moore Ahead Of Tuesday's Election

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

And President Trump held a political rally in Pensacola, Fla., last night, where he boasted of his impact on the U.S. economy. And he called U.S. politics, quote, "a rigged system." And he plugged the Republican senatorial candidate next door in Alabama.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And we want jobs, jobs, jobs. So get out and vote for Roy Moore.

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TRUMP: Do it. Do it.

SIMON: And, of course, Doug Jones is the Democratic candidate for that seat, as well. John Archibald is a columnist for The Birmingham News and al.com. He joins us now once again. Thanks so much for being with us - back with us, John.

JOHN ARCHIBALD: Sure, Scott. Thanks for having me.

SIMON: So much national attention - even international attention, I gather - over this election. What do you hear from Alabamans?

ARCHIBALD: Well, primarily, right now I'm hearing that they'll be really glad when this thing is over, no matter what happens. We've never seen a race quite as intense as this, frankly. And it's gearing up for a really sort of volatile final stretch.

SIMON: Do you sense that there's any effect from all the national attention? Does it in any way make Alabamans feel defensive about their state or defensive about a candidate who becomes the subject of a national punchline?

ARCHIBALD: Well, certainly, some of them do. I mean, there's been a lot of retrenching. And a lot of people - you know, Doug Jones supporters are frankly embarrassed by the state and what has happened. And, you know, I really think that Roy Moore supporters think that they're sort of waving - carrying the flag for the, you know - the thing that - I have a colleague that calls it the Alabama-fication (ph) of America. So I think that that that is a split just like everything else.

SIMON: Beyond the controversy over Roy Moore, what issues are important to Alabamans?

ARCHIBALD: Well, the Republicans really have managed to effectively boil the issue down to one thing. And that is abortion and the Supreme Court nomination. So there have not been a lot of real issues discussed in this race. Doug Jones has tried to make the CHIP program and health care an issue. But quite frankly, the whole thing has revolved around these allegations, Roy Moore's stance on these things and that abortion issue.

SIMON: It's interesting. Doug Jones prosecuted, as a prosecuting attorney, two of the Klansmen who bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church there in Birmingham. He's often been cited as an emblem of the New South. Roy Moore has always been controversial, right? It wasn't even just recently.

ARCHIBALD: Right - from the moment he rose on the scene. I mean, everything he has ever done in office has been essentially - I mean, he was reprimanded in his first judge. He was kicked out as Supreme Court justice twice. So, essentially, everything he has ever done has been breaking the rules, being punished and using that to achieve a higher level of success, which is kind of astonishing. It's really astonishing here because he has not always been that popular here. But for some reason, now, whether it's the state of politics in the country or something else, he has risen to to a all-time level of popularity.

SIMON: And quick final question - with all the attention, do you expect the turn out to be huge?

ARCHIBALD: I don't. You know, this is the most scrutinized race in my career here. And the secretary of state's estimating that turnout will be between 20 and 25 percent. So, you know, less than a quarter will decide.

SIMON: John Archibald from al.com, thanks so much.

ARCHIBALD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.