>> A crucial test for President Trump in Alabama as his favorite pick for the Senate struggles in one of America's most conservative states. I'm Andy Sullivan in Washington where Republicans will be closely watching the returns in a special election to fill a seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The results could be a barometer of Trump's influence in a state that he won by a wide margin. Luther Strange, the candidate that he endorsed last week, has been trailing in the polls and could be knocked out of the running in this early round of voting. That would be an embarrassment for Trump, just as he's facing a backlash over his handling of the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend.
Luther Strange has plenty of advantages on paper beyond Trump's endorsement. He's already in the Senate, appointed to temporarily fill the seat in February. He served twice as the state's Attorney General. And a political group backed by Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is spending millions of dollars on negative TV ads attacking his rivals.
>> Well, I feel great about today. I mean->> But, despite all that polls show Strange trailing rival candidate, Roy Moore. He's the hardline chief justice of State Supreme Court who made national headlines years ago for backing a statue of the Ten Commandments in the state capitol. More recently, Moore defying the Supreme Court's 2015 ruling that legalized gay marriage.
Moore isn't the only one Strange has to worry about. Also running neck and neck with him, Alabama Congressman Mo Brooks, a member of the hard right Freedom Caucus. Who supported Ted Cruz rather than Trump in the 2016 race. Both Moore and Brooks are campaigning against Strange and the Republican establishment as outsiders.
They're not criticizing Trump but pledging to work against McConnell and other Republican leaders if they make it to the Senate. The White House will be watching this race closely. Assuming that nobody gets more than 50% of the vote on Tuesday night, the top two candidates advance to a run off in September.
That means if Luther Strange falls short, either Moore or Brooks will be poised to overcome whoever the democrats put up. That means another outsider looking to shake things up in the Senate, more headaches for McConnell as he and his Republicans struggle to advance Trump's agenda on Capitol Hill.