I’d love to see Gov. Kay Ivey debate challenger Walt Maddox. It’s hard to believe that the Republican incumbent doesn’t have more than enough vote margin to “risk” sharing a stage with Maddox. Ivey may not be bold enough to brave a series of debates, but at least she’s not corrupt or crazy like some of her political peers. For most Alabamians, that’s enough to give her a shot at a full term.

If the debates did take place, our reactions wouldn’t be particularly surprising. Maddox is an energetic Democrat running on the Alabama Democratic Party’s recycled agenda for the last few decades. Ivey is a career Republican politician who loves Alabama and doesn’t put up many specifics about her policy agenda or plans for the state’s future. Short of Ivey passing out on stage or Maddox losing his cool, the substance of any debates wouldn’t move that many votes.

In deeply-Republican Alabama, Ivey begins the race with a real advantage, and she doesn’t plan on losing it. Maddox doesn’t have many opportunities to gain ground on Ivey at all.

The combination of anti-Trump fervor and Sen. Doug Jones’s (D-AL) victory over Roy Moore has given Alabama Democrats hope of a grand blue wave sweeping the South. In some races, that might be true. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (TN-7), for example, has her hands full in a U.S. Senate tilt with former Gov. Phil Bredesen. But Alabama is a different animal. If every Democrat turns out to vote for Maddox, he still needs Republican help.

That seems unlikely.

The fact Ivey has indeed “steadied the ship of state” is plenty track record for her to emphasize. As much as I’m annoyed by her lack of policy detail, most Alabama voters are just hoping to vote for a Republican without a mugshot. At the current rate of indictments, Ivey’s positive ethical track record isn’t lost on voters.

Much to Maddox’s disappointment, Ivey isn’t Roy Moore either. While it’s possible she’ll stand on stage and talk about her love of the Second Amendment, there’s no way her handlers would let her wave around a pistol as small as Moore’s. I doubt we’ll see her vote on horseback either. Even more of a challenge to Maddox is the reality that Ivey also reminds everyone of his or her favorite grandmother. She is as Alabama as peach pie.

Moderate Republicans have no compelling reason to abandon Ivey right now. The only attack path left for Maddox is to argue that his opponent is old, incompetent, and being run by her political minions.

Attacking a candidate on account of age is always a risky strategy. Older voters are the most reliable voting block in the country in terms of turnout. Angering them is a surefire way to lose. Other than ducking debates, Ivey hasn’t given Maddox any evidence to substantiate defensible attacks on her competency. She has scripted talking points, she has a great stump speech, and she’s not deviating from her strategy at all. Maddox can go after Ivey’s fitness for office, but he’d better have more than speculation.

Maddox does give the Democratic party its best chance in a long time, but he doesn’t break the mold enough to win without Ivey making some serious mistakes over the next few months. Right now, that simply isn’t happening. Ivey may not provide revolutionary leadership for Alabama, but that isn’t necessary when most voters simply want a Republican who won’t embarrass them.

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