Alabama voters will head to the polls Tuesday to choose their Republican nominee for the race to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' Senate seat. Unlike previous special elections, which have drawn attention for their anti-Trump candidates, this race is all about who can be the most pro-Trump conservative, and it's resulted in a cast of colorful characters akin to an episode of a fictional TV political drama.
"If I went out to Hollywood with a screenplay and either tried to sell it to a comedy like 'Veep' or a drama like 'House of Cards,' I'd be laughed at and told 'Nah, this would never happen in real life,'" said Gary Nordlinger, a political analyst and professor at George Washington University.
Alabama is a deeply red and very pro-Trump state. President Trump won with 63 percent of the vote in the 2016 election, so all eyes are on the top three GOP candidates in Tuesday's primary.
Luther Strange is Alabama's former attorney general and the Senate incumbent. He was appointed to fill Sessions' seat by former Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. Strange was leading an investigation into Bentley at the time on allegations of corruption. In November, Strange called on the Alabama House impeachment committee to suspend its work because his office was conducting a "related" investigation.
Bentley later resigned amid allegations that he misused public resources to pursue an affair with a former aide.
Then there's Rep. Mo Brooks. He's a tea-party favorite and a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, the group of right-wing Republicans that hijacked the first House GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Brooks has been in the headlines for some of his controversial campaign ads. In this July ad, he threatened to filibuster on the Senate floor if Trump's border wall doesn't receive funding in a budget bill.
"And if I have to filibuster on the Senate floor, I'll even read the King James Bible until the wall is funded," Brooks said in the ad.
Brooks also caught flak later in July after releasing this ad featuring an audio recording from the Virginia baseball field where Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) was shot.
Last but certainly not least -- in fact, he's leading in the polls -- is Roy Moore. He's the chief justice on Alabama's Supreme Court and a staunch social conservative. He's been suspended from the bench twice, the first time for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments from the state Supreme Court building, and the second time for refusing to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage.
While Trump's national approval ratings have been sinking, the numbers in Alabama tell a different story. According to a recent Gallup poll, 55 percent of Alabamians approve of the job Trump is doing. So in this primary, being pro-Trump goes a long way, and Strange appears to be winning that race.
Senator Luther Strange has done a great job representing the people of the Great State of Alabama. He has my complete and total endorsement!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
Strange wasted no time capitalizing on Trump's endorsement. Two days later he released a campaign ad prominently featuring Trump's tweet.
The endorsement was a surprise for many who thought of Strange as the establishment candidate. Conservative commentator Ann Coulter called the endorsement "completely idiotic," and has been encouraging voters to support Brooks.
"It's so hard to predict the how or why of Donald Trump," Nordlinger said. "Maybe he thought you know, 'Strange has supported me on every single piece of legislation, so he deserves my support.'"
The race wont change the makeup of the Senate, but it could signal which type of Republican candidate conservative states are looking for.
An August 5 JMC Analytics poll shows Moore leading with 30 percent, Strange in second place with 22 percent and Brooks in third with 19 percent.
In order to win the nomination, a candidate must get over 50 percent of the vote, and it's very likely that this race will go to a runoff. The question now is, which of the three top candidates will be voted off the ticket?