Tommy Tuberville, from the football sidelines to a political sideshow.
Photo: Doug Benc/Getty Images

When Judge Roy Moore announced last month that he was running for the Senate again in 2020, the potential entertainment value of the cycle went up appreciably, as I noted at the time:

To the great joy of Alabama Democrats and aficionados of strange politics everywhere, former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice Roy Moore announced today that he will again run for the U.S. Senate in 2020. It’s hardly anything new for the 72-year-old theocrat and alleged mall creeper. This will be his sixth run for statewide office in Alabama, counting two successful races for the state bench (though the first time he was removed from office, and the second time suspended, as he regularly defied federal court orders related to his theocratic views), two unsuccessful gubernatorial bids, and then his 2017 Senate race in the special election to choose a replacement for then–Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

After croaking Donald Trump’s handpicked candidate in the primary, Moore managed to lose to Democrat Doug Jones in one of the most heavily Republican states in the country. This dismal performance is clearly on the minds of the GOP voters he will need in 2020. A Cygnal poll taken shortly after he announced for the Senate showed 65 percent of Alabama Republicans having an unfavorable opinion of Ol’ Roy, with nearly a third saying they’d consider voting for Jones if Moore is his general election opponent. Other indicators aren’t great, either: Second-quarter financial disclosures show Moore with only $16,224 in cash on hand. Even if you believe the “Ten Commandments judge” is storing up treasure in heaven, he’s looking under the sofa cushions for money here on earth.

Moore has been underestimated before, and he’s never been that good at rattling the cup for campaign contributions (particularly given his potential among generous crazy people everywhere). But thanks to a beneficent God with a rich sense of humor, Moore’s field of rivals bids fair to match or exceed his traditional religiopolitical wackiness, with former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville already kicking out the jams to make it clear he believes the Almighty is on the sidelines cheering on him and Donald J. Trump.

On the Birmingham-based, nationally syndicated “Rick and Bubba” radio show recently, Tubs (as he was nicknamed in his coaching years) got weird and dumb right away, as Yellowhammer News reported:

“This world and our country has lost it,” the former Auburn University head football coach said. “Thank God, and I do thank God every day that we got Donald Trump elected two years ago. I could not imagine where we would be today had he not got elected …”

“And he has, I’m telling you now, he has got to win. All other elections are off, I mean he has got to win the next election,” he emphasized. “He’s got to get four more years.”

“Then of course, I want to go to the Senate to help him,” Tuberville added, explaining part of his motivation for running. “I’m not a politician, don’t want to be one. I’m an outsider like him (Trump). I’m a Christian conservative. I’m pro-life.”

He then remarked that he wanted the government to “quit spending money.”

Somebody might want to tell Tubs that Trump just endorsed a budget deal that will add an estimated $1.7 trillion to the national debt, and then relied on votes from the godless secular-socialist Democrats to get it through the House. But then again, he does not appear to be terribly interested in facts, as this comment to Rick and Bubba showed:

“We took prayer out of the schools in the mid-’60s. [Since] we did that, it’s really gone down hill,” Tuberville lamented.

He then pointed to what he views as unfair treatment of Christians in public schools.

“Let me give y’all a little stat. There’s 10 states, Texas being one of them, that there’s another religion that can have five prayers a day in the school. If we say the Lord’s Prayer, our kids get sent home. Wrong,” Tuberville said. “There’s a double standard in this country, and if we don’t stand up and start speaking out for God, prayer and the values that we need to get back, we’re not going to be a country anymore.”

I’m afraid Tubs is promoting some fake news there. He is apparently alluding to the practice of schools in a few states (the one that got the most attention was in Frisco, Texas) to make non-classroom space available for students of all faiths to pray so that they would not need to leave school altogether to attend worship services (on Fridays, that generally means Muslims, which aroused the hostile attention of Islamophobes).

But it’s clear Tuberville is going after Moore’s hard-core conservative Christian base. He made that plain in a campaign appearance in Montgomery:

Tuberville returned several times to the theme that a belief in God is essential to fixing what he believes are the nation’s pressing problems. He received applause and an amen or two when he said he believes the Trump presidency was a gift from God.

“I want to help Donald Trump and you get this mess straightened out,” Tuberville said. “And I’m going to do that. But we’ve got to put Jesus and God before everything else. And if we don’t do that we’re going to be brought down to our knees again.”

Tubs had an up-and-down coaching career, spending a decade at Auburn, with a stop before than at Ole Miss, and afterward landing at Texas Tech and Cincinnati. His tendency toward hoof-in-mouth disease has been a problem; after leaving Texas Tech he said (again on the “Rick and Bubba” show) this:

“You run me off at Auburn and you ship me to Lubbock, Texas,” Tuberville said, according to 247Sports. “I’m going to tell you what, that’s like going to Siberia. Somebody asked me, ‘What’s Lubbock look like?’ It looked like Iraq.”

He had to apologize for that one. But later, during a much-maligned stint as a college football color commentator, Tuberville committed this football equivalent of the Sin Against the Holy Ghost:

That’s about as bad as it would have been for Tubs to shout “Roll Tide” instead of “War Eagle” as his Auburn Tigers took the field at the Iron Bowl.

Tubs isn’t the only rival to Judge Roy who is dumbing down the Alabama Senate race. Here’s a deep thought from Secretary of State John Merrill, considered a very serious candidate himself, for the edification of the DeKalb County Republican Breakfast Club earlier this month:

He fielded a question from the group gathered about the shift in the culture and noted that some of that shift could be attributed to the changes in pop culture, including what was being shown on television.

“[T]hat’s what we’ve allowed to happen,” Merrill said. “How have we allowed it to happen? There are no more good TV shows on like ‘Gunsmoke,’ ‘Bonanza,’ ‘The Virginian,’ ‘Andy Griffith,’ ‘I Love Lucy.’ We don’t have those shows anymore. We’re too interested in homosexual activities.”

Lord have mercy. I cringe at the thought of what Roy Moore might have to say or do to compete with Tuberville and Merrill.

Tommy Tuberville: Roy Moore Without the Sex Scandals