Jeff Sessions For Senate Again?
Former Senator and Attorney General Jeff Sessions is reportedly considering running for his old Senate seat.
Former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, who had served as President Trump’s first Attorney General before being fired last year, is reportedly considering running for his old Senate seat, which is currently held by Democrat Doug Jones:
Former attorney general Jeff Sessions of Alabama is weighing a bid for his old U.S. Senate seat, meeting with consultants, retired senators and allies in recent weeks to plot out a potential 2020 campaign, three people familiar with the meetings said.
Sessions, whose turbulent two-year stint in the administration ended when he was forced out by President Trump last November, would enter with strong name recognition and deep institutional ties in the state and elsewhere. He held the seat for decades before he became Trump’s first attorney general.
But it would likely infuriate Trump, who attacked Sessions dozens of times for recusing himself from the Russia probe led by former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and occasionally still complains about the former attorney general.
The three people familiar with the meetings spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to talk frankly about Sessions’s deliberations.
Sessions, 72, has joked in recent weeks that he was glad he was not shot by the president, and he has continued to give public and private remarks supporting him.
He has not taken any public positions since being fired from the administration.
The move was first reported by Politico. A close Sessions ally said the former attorney general had not yet made a final decision.
Alabama’s senior senator, Richard C. Shelby (R), told reporters in June that Sessions had not ruled out a bid for his old seat.
“I’ve talked to him about it,” Shelby said at the time. “I think if he ran, he would be a formidable candidate. Formidable. I’ve not encouraged him to run, but he’s a friend, and if he ran, I think he’d probably clear the field.”
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is strongly considering jumping into the race for his old Senate seat in Alabama, according to multiple Republican sources familiar with the matter.
Sessions would scramble the already crowded field of Republicans seeking to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who won a 2017 special election to fill the remainder of Sessions’ term and is widely viewed as the most vulnerable senator on the ballot next year.
Sessions, 72, must decide within days whether to run: Candidates have until Nov. 8 to qualify for the ballot.
Five Republicans are already in the race: Rep. Bradley Byrne, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville, Secretary of State John Merrill, state Rep. Arnold Mooney and Roy Moore, the former state Supreme Court judge who lost the special election in 2017 amid allegations of sexual misconduct.
Sessions has some high-profile allies pushing him to run for his old seat, including the conservative Club for Growth.
“We are hearing that Sessions is seriously considering running for Senate again and that polling indicates he would be in very good shape. The Club for Growth has in the past and would once again encourage him to run for that Senate seat,” David McIntosh, the organization’s president, told POLITICO.
“We were enthusiastic way back early on that Sessions, when he retired from the attorney general spot, might go back to the Senate,” McIntosh added. “At that point, he didn’t want to think about that because he was just finishing up one job. I’m very encouraged he’s now seriously considering it.”
A Sessions comeback would face steep hurdles — chiefly, assuming he hasn’t had a change of heart, the president. Trump castigated Sessions throughout most of his tenure, and a reprise of his Twitter assaults could quickly make a primary campaign untenable.
“There isn’t anyone who has fallen more out of favor with President Trump than Jeff Sessions. Whatever goodwill that might still exist for him among Alabama Republicans would evaporate after sustained Trump tweets,” said one Republican steeped in the race who is unaffiliated with a candidate.
A person familiar with Sessions thinking declined to comment for this story.
Sessions declined to discuss whether he would get in last month when he was spotted near the Capitol. If he were to regain his old Senate seat, he’d likely lose his prior seniority in the chamber.
Sessions would immediately have the money to compete in the primary. He still has $2.5 million in his campaign account, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission filing. Only Byrne has more money in the bank, with slightly over $2.5 million cash on hand. Tuberville is next closest with $1.5 million.
There have been rumors about Sessions running for the Senate again ever since he left the Justice Department, but the former Senator and Attorney General has largely stayed mum about the subject. This led many to believe that he was not inclined to get back into politics again in the wake of his experience at the Justice Department and taking into account the fact that he is currently 72, would be 73 during the campaign and would be 80 years old by the end of another six-year term. As a result, the Republican field for the nomination to run against Senator Jones has become rather large, with figures such as former Auburn University Head Coach Tommy Tuberville, Congressman Bradley Byrne, current Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, and,, of course, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, who lost the 2017 Special Election to Jones after his past sexual misconduct was revealed. Current polling in the race, which has not included Sessions as a hypothetical candidate, has shown Tuberville in the lead, with Byrne in second place, and Moore and Merrill in what amounts to a statistical dead heat for third place.
It’s unknown what impact Sessions would have on the race, but at this point it seems unlikely that he would clear the field just by entering the race. Notwithstanding that, it’s worth noting that Sessions had easily won renomination and reelection each of the times he ran for relection in 2002, 2008, and 2014. Indeed, in 2014 he ran unopposed for both the Republican nomination and the General Election as Democrats declined to even put up a token candidate against him.
Taking this into account, one would think that Sessions would vault to near the top of the field for the nomination based on his previous popularity. As noted above, though, the open question is how President Trump might react to a Sessions candidacy. Even while he was still serving as Attorney General, Trump’s contempt for the person who was one of his earliest and most powerful supporters in Congress was an open secret in Washington. To a large part, Trump’s disdain for Sessions was rooted in the fact that he had recused himself from the Russia investigation due to his involvement with the Trump campaign, but there also seemed to be a truly vindictive personal nature to the attacks. It was widely reported, for example, that the President mocked Sessions’ southern accent and called him “Mr. Magoo” behind his back. Trump continued these attacks on Sessions long after he had left office as Attorney General, and all but claimed that Sessions himself was part of the alleged “Deep State” conspiracy that the President claims was arrayed against him.
Given this history, there seems to be a better than even chance that Trump would not only oppose Sessions in the primary but openly mock him the way he did while he was Attorney General. What impact that will have on Republicans in Alabama is unclear. On the one hand, it appears that the GOP base in the state is very much pro-Trump — he did win the state by nearly 700,000 votes in 2016 after all. On the other hand, polling has also shown that Sessions retains a lot of the goodwill among those same Republicans. How would they react to Trump not only endorsing another candidate but also attacking Sessions openly? I have no idea, but it would be very interesting to watch.
The final irony, of course, is that if Sessions does run and wins the nomination then he and Trump will be on the ballot together. In such a race, both of them would be considered favorites to win their statewide races. This would mean that, if Trump won re-election, he’d have to deal with Sessions in the Senate, While Sessions is a conservative and would vote as such, it’s also unlikely that he’d feel any particular personal loyalty toward the President. As Toby Ziegler once said on The West Wing, Ginger get the popcorn.