It has been a while since America's Deep South held any sway over the country's future. Whatever Alabama's voters decide next week will have a strong impact on Donald Trump's state of mind.
At stake in Alabama's Republican primary election is the loyalty of the president's base. Are they set on humbling America's establishment come what may, as Mr Trump originally promised? Or is their allegiance to the president as a person, regardless of what he does? Next week will test the theory of Mr Trump's base. Alabama is the laboratory.
It is a gamble Mr Trump did not have to take. On one side of the Alabama primary is Luther Strange, the sitting senator, whom the Republican establishment convinced Mr Trump to endorse. On the other is Roy Moore, the insurgent challenger, who is vowing to drain the Washington swamp, as Mr Trump earlier did. Mr Moore is backed by Steve Bannon, Mr Trump's former chief strategist and architect of his 2016 campaign. It has been barely a month since Mr Bannon was ejected from the White House. He is already on an opposing side to the president. Mr Bannon's team includes Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska, and Sebastian Gorka, another hardline former adviser to Mr Trump, who also was ejected last month. So far their horse is in the lead.
Even by Mr Bannon's standards, Mr Moore is an incendiary figure. A judge who has twice been removed from the bench for injudicious behaviour, Mr Moore believes God is punishing America for its sins. He vows to end the "reign" of Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader, if he wins. It is the kind of bomb throwing in which Mr Trump specialises. Polls show Mr Moore with a double-digit lead over Mr Strange. The president hopes to reverse those numbers on Friday when he will appear in Alabama with the relatively sedate Mr Strange. His gamble may well fail. Mr Trump's pride is at stake — as is the direction of his presidency.