Twenty-four hours to go. Tuesday’s Alabama Special Election for U.S. Senator is a Sword of Damocles for the conservative, faith practicing voters in Alabama, who normally vote straight up Republican tickets, as they help make the definitive choice on December 12.
The rest of the country gets to watch closely
This is all very dry. Important, but dry. We need some Alabama music. Here is the inspiration for the millions of state license plates that have just been retired. An unofficial state anthem.
Lynyrd Skynyrd’s* classic with 44 million views can’t be wrong. Their song dates to 1974, the same year Roy Moore returned to Alabama from his last U.S. Army posting to attend Law School.
Listen here. Enjoy.
Part III: Possible Voter Turnout for Alabama’s Special Election Tomorrow.
The public polling for this race is scarce and not very informative. The Special Election is an odd duck for historical comparisons. Mostly second tier firms have weighed in with fewer than the usual number of last minute formal polling results..
The general expert consensus (for whatever that’s worth) is that Moore started out well ahead in October (by 5-6 points), stumbled rather badly after the sexual misconduct allegations (Jones took a few points lead), and as Moore maintained his stiff upper lip denials, he has crept back in a small lead today (perhaps 3-4 points). Given Alabama’s recent voting history, this is not surprising, but not especially good news for Moore either since he should be riding a 10-12 point lead and pulling away by now, especially if Trump’s peek-a-boo endorsement helps him.
There have been private polls on both sides which reportedly show a narrow race at the finish, subject to a possible upset if the stars align, but Jones is expected to have a hard row.
The only thing most observers in and out of Alabama can seem to agree on is that the special election turnout will be a critical factor tomorrow.
I’m certainly no expert on turnout dynamics, but since we have now compiled a Roy Moore versus All Comers statewide results data set for nearly the last two decades in Alabama, are there nuggets to be found.
No one knows what the bigly very special circumstances surrounding this race will do to affect higher or lower voter turnout for either party. But as a thought experiment (Gedankenexperiment in German, in honor of our very intelligent Great Leader Trump, let’s have a cautious go.
Can we use actual voting results from our 13 index elections to estimate (handicap) what the vote totals might be tomorrow, assuming no other bombshells hit Alabama in the next 24-hours. You know, like a sex videotape staring Moore in his undershorts, or a North Korean missile attack on Japan, or a major death dealing terrorist incident in the southern U.S. impacting Alabama.
Maybe looking at Tables 5 and 6 presented in the blog post Trump & Moore Part II can shed some light.
Here they are again.
And Table 6:
No guarantees mind you. The experts have mainly chosen to waffle and hedge on quantitative estimates to preserve their economic viability for future client work. “Could be this or could be that; on the other hand’. We are not constrained by such greenback considerations, and this is after all just a Thought Experiment, for academic and literary purposes.
In for a penny, in for a pound. Let no one say we are afraid to put our views to a quantitative estimation test. The beauty of this estimation is that it has a shelf life of exactly 24 hours, after which it turns into a pumpkin.
Alabama voters will make the final call; no spin applied. You know, I sorta miss O’Reilly on Fox at night, though there is that sexual harassment and millions in secret settlements thing. A steady unrelieved diet of Hannity is cloying and boring.
Semi-Brief Voter Turnout Analysis: Roy Moore (R) vs. Doug Jones (D)
Table 5 gives the actual numerical results for all 13 statewide index elections we examined, sorted by Presidential Year (5) versus Off Year (8) contests. The Presidential Year elections include the only two statewide elections Moore has won. The seven Off Year elections include both of Moore’s statewide losses, and his pending contest finishing tomorrow.
For our simple purposes, the average Republican General Election vote count in Presidential Years from 2000 through 2017 was 1,1162,526. The comparable number for the seven completed Off Year elections for the Republican nominee was 793,943. Off Yearness has cost Republicans 368,583 votes on average in each General Election contests for the last 20 years.
We need a target against which to measure Republican voting prowess, so we will use the same division of elections results for the Democratic opponents in the General Elections, on the theory that generally speaking in Alabama today, one Democrat pretty much resembles any other Democrat. In other words, they all look alike. Applying the same methods as for the Republican Winners the Presidential Year Total General Election Democratic vote counts for statewide office was 759,758 on average Similarly the generic Democratic General Election vote in Non-Presidential Years was 549,488, an Off Year decline of 210,270 votes on average per election.
So Table 5 shows Democrats got fewer votes and lost 12 times, But comparing the results in presidential Years vs Non-Presidential years, the Democratic voting base declined significantly less than the Republican voting base.
Not polls, boots on the ground and in the ballot box.
In Presidential Year contests Republicans had a 402, 768 advantage over Democrats. In contrast for all Non-Presidential Year statewide races, the Republican advantage over Democrats was 244,455.
Still Republican wins, but Pardon, Your Slip is Showing.
In the Presidential Years, as a candidate Moore finishes last and next to last among all Republican winners, and he was the only candidate to receives less than the group average vote count. In other words he has lowered the Republican winning vote totals in statewide races consistently, even when he slid into office twice before. In Non-Presidential years, the Republican winners in the two statewide races where Moore didn’t get past the primary got nearly exactly the same average vote counts as for all the races. In other words, Moore not making the final ballot did not adversely affect the Republican brand that year. There is no Moore lost so I’ll stay home and pout effect that we can see.
As for the two-term Presidential switch years from one party to the other (2008 and 2016), Trump (2016) essentially tied McCain (2208), just as Clinton (2016) tied Obama (2008) in Alabama. In other words there was no Trump.45 tsunami in Alabama positively riling up voters, as reflected in statewide Alabama races.
Some confirmation of this little fact is that Trump (2016) got 62.1% of the Alabama vote, while Senator Richard Shelby wound up with 64..1%. In other words Shelby had coattails, and Trump.45 was the Republican statewide also ran that year. Oopsi.
Table 6 presents the same look as Table 5, sorted by Presidential Year vs. Non-Presidential Year groups, except that the Judicial elections have been removed, leaving a total of 11 index cases.
Roy Moore is not running for Judge in 2017. That chapter of his life is finished. He is competing for a Non-Judicial Office where considerably different skills and responsibilities are involved. You know, stuff like foreign policy, writing laws, passing budgets, international diplomacy, and cooperation with allies on the world stage, etc. In 40 years before the public Moore has never worked on these things with others who are colleagues, and more senior to him. Moore’s most comfortable place has always been preaching as a moralistic hermit, a job description not really suited to the U.S. Senate in 2018, particularly for a rank newbie, should he be elected and seated.
Using the same framework as for Table 5, the Presidential Year Republican Winners (3 races) average vote total was 1,294,175. No Moore races are included. For the Non-Presidential Year statewide elections (7), the average Republican General Election vote total was 793,943. Here Moore’s two losing statewide Non-Judicial races are included.
So, there was the expected drop in Off-Year Republican Winner General Election totals compared to Presidential Year Republican votes cast, but the drop was more significant. Republicans lost an average of 500.232 votes in Non-Presidential elections (a loss of 38.7%).
The comparable numbers for the General Election Democratic vote in the 11 index cases is an average of 698.380 in Presidential years, and 549,488 in Non-Presidential Years. Democrats too experienced a slenderizing of their voter base in Non-Presidential years of 148,892 votes per election on average (a drop of 21.3%).
The Republican loss is these comparisons is much greater than the for the Democrats, an Off-Year decline on average of 351,340 votes.
Comparing Table 5 and 6, when Republicans run in Presidential Years without Moore they receive an average if 1,294,175 votes. When Moore is on the General Election ticket in Presidential years all Republican statewide winners get an average vote count of 1,162,562. Oh dear, oh dear! Moore’s presence in Presidential years depresses Republican votes by 131,613 votes on average. When Moore is not part of the General Election ballot in Off-Year Elections, it makes no difference in how the eventual Republican nominees perform.
Moore’s quantum ballot effect seems to be consistent with the hypothesis that when he’s on, Republicans underperform; when he’s not, no effect is seen. He hurts his party, but he doesn’t help it. That’s not the right direction for the pendulum to swing.
What to Make of This Web of Voter Turnout Observations
The first thing to say is that this is an Off-Off Year Election, so the turnout should be more representative of Off Year profiles, than Presidential Year profiles. In Off Year statewide, non-judicial elections without Moore, a Republican candidate should get (ballpark) 790,000 votes. When Moore is on the ballot (2017) the Republican nominee (here Moore himself) is likely to take a 132,000 vote hit, or a decrease (Moore-related) of 10.2%. Whether that hit should be adjusted for the usual percentage drop of Republican turnout from Presidential Years to Off Years is subject to reasonable question.
In our 20 year historical series of statewide races, the Republican nominee should receive about 63% of the vote. Roy Moore, based on his statewide General Elections average, is likely to get 53% of the votes cast, at the top end. This is an added drag of a 10% underperformance penalty for the Republican candidate in 2017.
An energized Democratic electorate can generate 750,000 votes in a statewide office election contest, after completely excluding the presumed 2012 Obama coat tails effect among African American voters, which also netted 225,000 additional votes down-ballot for statewide races.
At the intersection then, Roy Moore is likely to receive about 790,000 votes, less perhaps 15-20% for the historical Moore poor performance (MPPE) effect on Republican voters, an expected final total roughly between 632,000 and 672,000 votes. Jones, assuming a well played ground game, should garner about 750,000 votes on the high end, subject to some shrinkage due to the fact that this is still an Off-Year Election, of perhaps 5%-10%, leaving him with a final total of perhaps 675,000 to 712,000 votes.
Letting it all hang out, this analytic method would suggest Jones may win (694,000 votes midpoint) to Moore’s (652,000 votes midpoint), or a margin of about 40,000 votes among a total of 1.346 million votes to be cast on Tuesday.
Our election analysis for the Alabama Special Election Senate race to complete the current term of Jeff Sessions as Alabama’s Junior Senator (until 2020) is consistent with Jones (D) receiving 51.6%, and Moore (R) 48.4%, along with a possible turnout of 1.35 million votes cast.
I have tried to be very careful and double check all the calculations involved, even though they are mostly straight forward math problems. Despite my most careful attention, since I am human, and have some visual problems of aging, despite my best efforts there might be s bug or glitch handing around in here somewhere. I have tried to provide all the raw data I considered in the Tables provided in Parts I, II, and III, so Eagle Eyes have at it. Recheck all the numbers.Don’t take my word for it. Hash it out to your own satisfaction.
This analysis is based on prior actual election results in Alabama statewide political contests, not polling number samples, and is made before any votes are cast. No adjustment has been made for any shifts due to the lingering sexual allegations against Roy Moore (which he has carefully, if not fully denied), nor goosing interference by outside carpet baggers like Trump.45, nor for the possibility a substantial number of write-in votes could be cast for Busby, or Sabin, or some responsible Republican (as suggested by Richard Shelby, Alabama’s longtime senior U.S. Senator, who has served his state since 1988).
Senator Shelby also played something of a Wild Card on Sunday, talking directly to his constituents in a calm and dignified manner, more in sadness than anger or pique, urging that Alabama could do better than Roy Moore. Real food for thought.
I don’t think there will be a huge number of Republicans using write-in votes, but there may be some Republican voter fatigue and stay at home action from all the commotion of the last 75 days. There is a potential for some Alabama Republicans, particularly women, to make an exception, and cast a cross-over vote this one time, to prove the general rule.
Alabama decides; let’s see if this analysis tracks their actual votes tomorrow.
I can tell you I’ve already got my place reserved in front of the TV, computer, tablet, smart phone, etc. No FAKE NEWS allowed.
Trump On the Half-Wing, Down Wing for Moore
No one has ever, not once in the 71 years he has been breathing, called Trump a shrinking violet. He insists on speaking first, loud and proud, on any and every thematic subject from sports, to Christian faith and moral doctrine, to principles of Constitutional law, to how other nations ought to go about their own business, to expressing artistic opinions about TV stars, to posing as an expert journalism critic, to advising minorities about how they should improve their lives, to pretending to be a sophisticated military strategist and diplomatic peace maker, to how to handle, revere, treat, and dismiss women of all ages, races, sizes, and physical attributes (especially in the dating and sexual experience alpha-male categories of action, performance, and talk), etc., etc., to name a very few of his extensive golden resume skills and accomplishments.
Trump.45 is quite literally tiptoeing through the tulips, playing hide-and-seek, peek-a-boo teasing, and sneaking round the back door trying to boost Moore’s chances, and yet still maintain a fig leaf of plausible deniability, in case it all backfires and blows up. Not to mention running as hard as he can between raindrops to keep Trump.45’s own already publicly exposed and taped sexual peccadillos off the nation’s radar.
For a man steeped in standing up to the likes of Rocket Man, Iran, ISIS in Syria, FAKE NEWS, uppity immigrants and others, it is quite frankly shocking that Trump.45 seems afraid to just come straight on down by direct flight to the Heart of Dixie, in person, before a massive Mobile rally, and defy the puppets, surrogates, and ignorant sods who doubt Roy Moore face to face. He ought especially to stand up and do the right thing live in Alabama, and call out the malicious falsehoods, lies, and deceptions of nine devious Alabama women who have accused Roy Moore of sexual predation, while showing not one grain of truth or credible evidence to back up their scurrilous charges against a good and holy man, a man of courage and biblical honor.
After all, Moore has denied every accusation in full, on multiple occasions, and stands ever ready to defend himself anywhere, anytime, and anyplace, except where he would be under oath and subject to the penalties of perjury. In Trump.45’s recently considered expert legal opinion, Moore’s non-sworn denials seal the deal completely. Case closed.
Moore is, never forget, a lawyer and former Judge, and has some clue about the consequences of testifying falsely before civil authorities. He is circumspect about getting trapped in any possible perjury rap, thus committing a new crime which would subject him to investigation anew, when the statutes have run out on any possible old crimes from the 70’s and 80’s.
Given his own larger than life macho image, it is ludicrous for Trump.45 to sneak in and out of the Great State of Alabama with a robocall, a rally moved 20 miles over the state line into Florida, a half dozen tweets, and fly by remarks on his way to board the helicopter on the White House lawn.
Who knows why Trump.45 changes his mind, goes hot and cold, and flops his flips? A skeptic might say it is so because then Trump.45 can claim a loud and boisterous victory, whatever happens to Moore. Trump.45 can hog credit for a win, but he can blame Moore himself if he falls short in what ought to be a slam dunk winnable Republican race. Trump.45 done it before. See the results from the Virginia governor’s race a few weeks ago in 2017, and Trump’s self-exculpatory explanations then. If only, my friends……
3-D Political triangulation, Trump.45 style. Or, he might just be confused and unsure how to play his cards here. Trump.45 loves to position himself by the poll weather vane.
One problem is that off-off year special election polling is too often a crap shoot, so Donald’s finger raised boldly into the wind is being blown on and ruffled from every side.
One thing for sure is that Trump.45 doesn’t give a rat’s ass what happens to Roy Moore as a person after tomorrow. Lest we forget, Alabama already has a serving Republican junior senator in Luther Strange, sworn in and active, who has already voted for Trump.45’s priorities down the line on healthcare, taxes, and whatever else needed doing. The Great Middle Class Tax Cut & Reform bill will pass and be signed before Christmas, as Trump.45 has insisted all along, so Moore wouldn’t even get a chance to vote on it. That’s Big Luther’s last job.
Besides, the tax bill just passed the Senate 52-48 (two votes to spare), so if by some fluke Jones should win, and get sworn in before the final tax vote, he wouldn’t change anything by voting no. Not to mention the fact that the Alabama governor can slow walk the election vote certification process, and the Republican Senate can stall and slow walk the swearing in of Jones (should he win) as Alabama’s junior senator. And the Democrats can’t do a damn thing about it, either.
Certainly those little stall maneuvers are no heavy lift for a guy like Mitch McConnell who hijacked a Supreme Court Justice vote for a year, denying someone who was highly qualified as a Judge, had never been suspended, and previously won Senate Confirmation to a Federal Appeals Court with a 76-23 bipartisan vote, Trump.45 can rest easy about his tax plan before Christmas, Moore or no Moore.
Trump.45 is not faithful, and will throw anyone under the bus when it suits him. Case in point is that Trump.45 has already tricked Alabama and its voters in 10 short months. They gave up Jeff Sessions’ very senior Senate seniority status (good for home state patronage dollars worth $100’s of millions, and plum Senate Committee Assignments to write laws and make public policy) for a lowly #100 Senate replacement, which Moore would inherit. So far Back of the Bus, he’d be hanging over the rear bumper, influence wise.
To add insult to monetary injury for Alabama’s long suffering citizens, Trump.45 has engaged in a vitriolic and demeaning series of attacks on his own Attorney General (Alabama’s Jeff Sessions). He has treated Alabama’s senator as a disobedient puppy, in public and in private, and berated him behind his back and watched (ordered, orchestrated, directed ???) the putdowns leaked to the press. This is the kind of behavior no respectable adult Alabama man should tolerate from anyone, and should refuse to abide on principal.
Jeff Sessions can answer for himself. The point here is that Trump.45 has already demeaned and turned on Alabama’s second highest elected Federal Official (a compliant member of his own cabinet), and will do it again, in a heartbeat, if the mood or notion of temporary advantage strikes him.
That’s just the kind of guy he is. Sweet guy, great guy, fabulous leader, Master deal Maker.
So Moore in the Senate would be a distinct step down from Jeff Sessions’ power and influence, and he will be tossed over by Trump.45, whenever it should prove convenient. After all, Trump.45 doesn’t need Moore for anything substantial. As for the Christian morality social element Moore might try and inspire in political Washington, Trump already has guns, Muslims, immigration, and religious freedom well in hand. Just ask him. The only sharp element that Moore might bring to the table is his strident, no holds barred, pro-life stance. But Trump.45 has other much bigger fish to fry in 2018, and the abortion problem will ultimately be decided in the Supreme Court, not in Congress.
Moore is a religious firebrand, but not an adept or quick witted speaker in debate. He has already shown a remarkable distaste for questions and serious camera shyness when challenged in an open public gathering. His hectoring holier-than-thou style will not play well with his sitting Republican colleagues, much less anyone else. Trump.45 will soon tire of this ageing warrior, who is looking for a comfortable last job, and a decent additional taxpayer funded pension to soothe and ease his old age.
Moore has never lasted in any elected job longer than six years (and then only once as Etowah County Circuit Court Judge). Remember, even if he wins Moore will be a placeholder senator; as he will fill out Sessions unexpired term, and must run all over again in 2020 and face the very same questions once more, at age 73, and still a Senate neophyte with low ranking seniority. By the same token, if Alabama voters choose Jones, he too will be a fill in temporary US Senator and must run for a full term again in 2020. It would be an easy time time for Alabama to revert to a completely Red team then, if they feel the need.
Addendum: Repeat and Small Correction
Roy Moore is a quixotic seeker of political office in Alabama. He has been running for office for 35 years. He has run five times for statewide office, and won twice, both times for a Judicial Office. He has been defeated twice for statewide office before 2017. He is in the Alabama Special Election Contest tomorrow as the Republican candidate. He entered the race in April 2017, after he resigned from the Alabama Supreme Court, having been removed from that office in 2016 (permanently suspended) for the second time (the first being in 2003) both times by a panel made up of senior Alabama State Judges.
Roy Moore is a laggard vote getter for Alabama Republicans, based on his documented election performance for the last 35 years.
Caveat emptor, Alabama
It would be most foolish and presumptuous to predict pretend confident knowledge about what Alabama voters will actually do tomorrow as they listen to their internal voices in the voting booths across the state. Alabamians don’t vote until tomorrow, and they will only speak publicly with their ballot choices then. No great fool I. The analysis above is not a prediction for fame or money, but a mental exercise to try and make sense in my own mind (also as an outsider) of the blizzard of contradictions swirling around this complex election in Alabama.
However, it is plain this is a year of savage and unpredictable changes, in politics and elsewhere in America.
After they pray about it, and cast their ballots for either major candidate, or a write in candidate, or vote none of the above, or stay at home, Alabama voters will own the results and must deal with them accordingly in the days to come.
ALABAMA, GO VOTE! GO VOTE, ALABAMA!
MAKE YOURSELVES PROUD WITH YOUR CHOICE.
Ending Musical Coda
This is definitely a two song day. We need some more music to make this digestible, if not palatable. Here’s another classic song and video from 1974 by Gordon Lightfoot, called Sundown. A haunting melody of yearning and hurt about a man who has trouble communicating with the object of his love, and calling off an interloper hanging around the object of his affection.
Here is a video of Gordon Lightfoot playing his new ballad on the popular Midnight Special TV show from 1974.
The more you ponder about Roy Moore’s feelings and urges in 1977, recently graduated from a tough Law School program, and not long removed from five dry years in the U.S. Army (including a tour in Da Nang, Viet Nam), the possible connection to Roy Moore’s state of mind begins to dawn.
*As with so much else having to do with the rich and complicated tapestry that is Alabama, the song with its wonderful melody and driving rhythm manages to touch on George Wallace, Jimmy Carter, The Birmingham Church bombings, a retort to those who look down on Alabama’s social culture, engaging a musical conversation with Neil Young, and then indirectly the design of Alabama’s license plates, and thus the status of convict labor in the state, where inmates made those beautiful plates for less than $0.75 per hour.
Listen to the song twice if you don’t know it well.
Sweet Home Alabama entry (partial) from Wikipedia:
“Sweet Home Alabama” is a song by Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd that first appeared in 1974 on their second album, Second Helping.
It reached number 8 on the US chart in 1974 and was the band’s second hit single. The song was written in reply to “Southern Man” and “Alabama” by Neil Young; Young is name-checked in the song’s lyrics.
There is a semi-hidden vocal line in the second verse after the line “Well, I heard Mr. Young sing about her”. In the left channel, you can hear the phrase “Southern Man” being sung lightly (approximately at 0:55). This was producer Al Kooper doing a Neil Young impression and was just another instance of the band members amusing themselves in the studio while being recorded. According to Leon Wilkeson, it was Kooper’s idea to continue and echo the lines from “Southern Man” after each of Van Zant’s lines. “Better…keep your head”…”Don’t forget what your / good book says”, etc. But Van Zant insisted that Kooper remove it, not wanting to plagiarize or upset Young. Kooper left the one line barely audible in the left channel.
Following the two “woos” (Wilkeson’s, the first; King’s, the second) at the start of the piano solo (at approximately 4:08), Van Zant can be heard ad-libbing “My, Montgomery’s got the answer.” The duplicate “my” was produced by Kooper turning off one of the two vocal takes. For Lynyrd Skynyrd’s 1976 film Free Bird, this final line was changed to “Mr. (Jimmy) Carter got the answer.” in a reference to the 1976 Presidential Election. While this line has many variations, and was commonly sung as “My Montgomery’s got the answer,” in the original recording, the line was “Ma and Pop Stoneman got the answer,” referring to Hattie and Ernest Stoneman, better known as Ma and Pop Stoneman of the bluegrass/country music group and a TV show of the same name, The Stoneman Family.
“Sweet Home Alabama” was written as an answer to two songs, “Southern Man” and “Alabama” by Neil Young, which dealt with themes of racism and slavery in the American South. “We thought Neil was shooting all the ducks in order to kill one or two,” said Ronnie Van Zant at the time. The following excerpt shows the Neil Young mention in the song:
Well, I heard Mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard ol’ Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don’t need him around anyhow
In his 2012 autobiography Waging Heavy Peace, Young commented on his role in the song’s creation, writing “My own song ‘Alabama’ richly deserved the shot Lynyrd Skynyrd gave me with their great record. I don’t like my words when I listen to it. They are accusatory and condescending, not fully thought out, and too easy to misconstrue”.
Van Zant’s other response was also controversial, with references to the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace (a noted supporter of segregation) and the Watergate scandal:
In Birmingham, they love the governor (boo boo boo)
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth…
Sweet home Alabama, oh, sweet home baby
Where the skies are so blue and the governor’s true
Music historians point out that the choice of Birmingham in connection with the governor (rather than the capital Montgomery) is significant for the controversy as “In 1963, the city was the site of massive civil rights activism, as thousands of demonstrators led by Martin Luther King, Jr. sought to desegregate downtown businesses… [and] was the scene of some of the most violent moments of the Civil Rights Movement. Segregationist police chief Bull Connor unleashed attack dogs and high-pressure water cannons against peaceful marchers, including women and children; just weeks later, Ku Klux Klansmen bombed a black church, killing four little girls.”
In 1975, Van Zant said: “The lyrics about the governor of Alabama were misunderstood. The general public didn’t notice the words ‘Boo! Boo! Boo!’ after that particular line, and the media picked up only on the reference to the people loving the governor.” “The line ‘We all did what we could do’ is sort of ambiguous,” Al Kooper notes. “‘We tried to get Wallace out of there’ is how I always thought of it.” Towards the end of the song, Van Zant adds “where the governor’s true” to the chorus’s “where the skies are so blue,” a line rendered ironic by the previous booing of the governor. Journalist Al Swenson argues that the song is more complex than it is sometimes given credit for, suggesting that it only looks like an endorsement of Wallace. “Wallace and I have very little in common,” Van Zant himself said, “I don’t like what he says about colored people.”
Music historians examining the juxtaposition of invoking Richard Nixon and Watergate after Wallace and Birmingham note that one reading of the lyrics is an “attack against the liberals who were so outraged at Nixon’s conduct” while others interpret it regionally: “the band was speaking for the entire South, saying to northerners, we’re not judging you as ordinary citizens for the failures of your leaders in Watergate; don’t judge all of us as individuals for the racial problems of southern society”.
In September 2007, Alabama Governor Bob Riley announced the phrase “Sweet Home Alabama” would be used to promote Alabama state tourism in a multimillion-dollar ad campaign. No indication has been given if the song itself will be included in the campaign.
As of 2009, the State of Alabama has begun using the phrase “Sweet Home Alabama” as an official slogan on license plates for motor vehicles, with Governor Bob Riley noting that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s anthem is the third most-played song referring to a specific destination. (This is also the second Alabama license plate in a row to make reference to a popular song, with the state’s previous plate having featured “Stars Fell on Alabama”.)