Roy Moore Hits Back At Trump’s Call For Him To Stay Out Of Senate Race
Republicans nationwide are trying to discourage Roy Moore from running for Senate again. Roy Moore doesn't care.
Earlier this week, President Trump waded into the race for the Republican nomination to take on Senator Doug Jones in Alabama, saying that Roy Moore should stay out of the race due to the fact that he cannot win a General Election. The President’s son Donald Trump Jr. made similar statements, saying that Moore should stay out of the race for the good of the party. Moore isn’t having any of it, though. Although he had previously characterized himself as a supporter of the President, Moore lashed out against the criticism, raising the speculation that he will get into the race after all:
A defiant Roy Moore brushed aside Donald Trump’s warning not to run for Senate again, telling POLITICO on Wednesday that Alabama voters are capable of deciding for themselves whether he’s fit for office.
“The president doesn’t control who votes for the United States Senate in Alabama,” Moore said in a phone interview. “People in Alabama are smarter than that. They elect the senator from Alabama, not from Washington, D.C.”
The scandal-plagued former judge said he is “seriously considering” running for Senate again and plans to decide in a “few weeks.”
Moore’s recalcitrance comes as Republicans, including Trump, are warning him to stay out of the race against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. Republicans view the Alabama contest as a linchpin of their Senate majority — ousting Jones in 2020 would give the GOP a larger cushion with the party mostly on defense on the Senate map.
Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that he has “NOTHING” against Moore, despite the sexual misconduct allegations against the former judge. But, he wrote, Moore “cannot win, and the consequences will be devastating.” That came after Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., also tweeted at Moore to steer clear of the race.
Top allies to Senate Republican leadership have made clear they view Moore as the best chance Democrats have to maintain the seat.
“We believe most Alabama Republicans realize that nominating Roy Moore would be gift wrapping this Senate seat for Chuck Schumer,” said Steven Law, president of Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
Moore is convinced he could capture his party’s nomination in the face of the president’s opposition again. He said some Republicans are fearful that he still has support in the state.
“They know I’ll win,” he said. “That’s why they’re upset.”
He also continues to deny the multiple allegations of inappropriate behavior against him that were reported on during the 2017 race. “It was fake news then, [and] it’s fake news now,” Moore said.
Republicans have believed for weeks that Moore was likely to run for Senate again. They also acknowledge there’s little they can do to stop him, and that he has a hard-core base of supporters in the state that likely gives him both a high floor and low ceiling of support. Alabama election laws require winning a majority of the vote to secure a party nomination, so Moore could have an opening to make a runoff in a crowded primary field.
Opposition to his potential candidacy has been fairly unified throughout the party. Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, the National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, had spoken with Trump in recent weeks and raised concerns about Moore, according to two people familiar with the discussion.
These comments from Moore are just the latest example of the obvious interest that Moore has in getting into the race for the seat that he lost back in December 2017. In March, for example, it was reported that Moore might get into the race and he said later in the month that he was “seriously considering” the idea. In April, a poll of actual and potential candidates for the Republican nomination showed Moore leading the field, In that poll, Moore received the support of 27% of respondents, while Congressman Mo Brooks, who is not presently a candidate for the seat, received 13%. Brooks is a member of the House Freedom Caucus who ran for this seat in 2017 only to come in third place behind Moore and then-Senator Luther Strange, who had been appointed to fill the seat after Sessions became Attorney General. Strange, of course, went on to lose the runoff to Moore and apparently is not considering getting into the race this time around. Congressman Bradley Byrne, who seems to be favored by the state Republican establishment, gets 12%, and Congressman Gary Palmer gets 11%. Other potential candidates came in at less than 10%. In addition to Congressman Byrne, other declared candidates in the race for the GOP nomination at this time include Arnold Mooney, a member of the Alabama legislature, and Tommy Tuberville, the former Head Coach of the Auburn University Tigers.
The main reason for Jones’s win, of course, was the fact that in the month before the election Moore was credibly accused by a number of women of having sexually assaulted or harassed them when they were underage and Moore was a thirty-something young county prosecutor as detailed here, here, and here. This led nearly all of the Republicans in Alabama and nationwide to withdraw their endorsements of Moore’s candidacy and national Republican organizations to withdraw from the state and withhold aid from Moore’s campaign. Notwithstanding these allegations, of course, Moore still ended up receiving over 48% of the vote. Given that it’s safe to say that Moore probably would have been elected to the Senate if the sexual assault allegations had not been made public before the election notwithstanding the fact that Moore had entered the race with a controversial history as Alabama’s Chief Justice in which he was removed from the bench twice for refusing to comply with orders from a Federal Court related to the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Supreme Court and his refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges overturning remaining state laws against same-sex marriage.
As I’ve said before, any other Republican would have likely defeated Jones rather easily. This is apparent based on the fact that notwithstanding the charges against him immediately prior to the election, Moore still managed to win 48% of the vote. Indeed, Moore probably would have been elected to the Senate if the sexual assault allegations had not been made public before the election notwithstanding the fact that he had entered the race with a controversial history as Alabama’s Chief Justice, including two instances where he was removed from the bench due to his refusal to comply with the directives of a Federal District Court related to the placement of a Ten Commandments monument on the grounds of the State Supreme Court and his refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges overturning remaining state laws against same-sex marriage.
Jones’s win was significant given the fact that he was the first Democrat elected to the Senate since Howell Heflin was re-elected in 1990 and Richard Shelby, who later changed parties from Democratic to Republican, was re-elected in 1992. However, it is because of those facts that Jones faces an uphill battle in 2020. This is even truer given the fact that he will have to find a way to win statewide in Alabama in a Presidential election year notwithstanding the fact that President Trump won the state by nearly 30 points in 2016 and is likely to post just as strong a win in 2020. Any other Republican would probably beat Jones easily, but if Moore somehow manages to win the nomination again it could be just what Jones needs to win a full term in the Senate.
Because of all this, the possibility of Moore getting into the race obviously has Republicans concerned. The main reason for this is because 2020 will be a somewhat difficult year for Senate Republicans, unlike 2018. Next year, the Senators who were elected in the historic 2014 election in which Republicans picked up nine seats will be facing re-election, and this includes Senators in several states where Democrats have a chance of flipping the result.
Of these perhaps the most vulnerable is Cory Gardner in Colorado, who faces re-election in a state that Hillary Clinton won by 5 percentage points in 2016. One reflection of that vulnerability is the fact that the field for the Democratic nomination to take Gardner on is quite large.
Another vulnerable state for Republicans is Arizona, where Senator Martha McSally faces a tough Special Election fight. The most appealing Democratic candidate in that race is, by far, former astronaut Mark Kelly, the husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords. Kelly may still face a nomination fight, but recent polling has shown him statistically tied with McSally in a hypothetic General Election.
Another potential vulnerability lies in Maine, where Susan Collins could face a backlash due to her vote in favor of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation last year. Democrats and activists are reportedly trying to put together a strong opposition to Collins, but she has proven adept at winning in her home state and has built up a substantial campaign war chest and may be unbeatable.
As things stand Republicans could stand to lose these two seats and still have a 51-49 majority. Because of that, taking back Alabama would go a long way toward alleviating GOP concerns about losing the Senate. This is why the powers that be are trying to discourage Moore from running, and why it’s likely that any primary campaign he may launch will be quite different from what he saw in 2017.