Politics

‘Go get ’em, Roy.’ Trump and Republicans back Moore

President Trump said of Roy Moore: “We need his vote.”
Evan Vucci/Associated Press/File
President Trump said of Roy Moore: “We need his vote.”

AUBURN, Ala. — President Trump on Monday strongly endorsed Roy Moore, the Republican nominee for a US Senate seat here, prompting the Republican National Committee to restore its support for a candidate accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls.

Trump’s endorsement strengthened what had been his subdued, if symbolically significant, embrace of Moore’s campaign. And the decision of the national committee, which severed ties to Moore just weeks ago, switched on a financial spigot that could prove crucial in the race’s closing days.

“Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama,” Trump posted on Twitter on Monday, before he formally endorsed Moore during a telephone call. “We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more.”

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Moore responded after Trump’s endorsement.

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Trump’s endorsement and the party’s machinations came a day after Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, had stepped back from his earlier criticism of Moore, saying Alabama voters should “make the call” on whether to send Moore to the Senate. Taken together, the week’s developments suggested that Republicans were increasingly confident that Moore is well positioned to defeat Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee, in next week’s special election.

But even as senior Republicans again coalesced around Moore, there were reminders that the party’s divide over its nominee remained. Mitt Romney, the party’s presidential nominee in 2012, warned that Moore’s presence in Congress would be “a stain” on Republicans and the country.

“No vote, no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity,” Romney wrote on Twitter.

Although Moore appeared to be regaining important support in his party, some of his accusers pushed back at recent remarks in which he said he did not even know them, let alone behave inappropriately.

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It is not clear whether the back-and-forth will do anything to change the contours of the race, which is especially close by the standards of a state where Republicans tend to rout their rivals, but many party officials believe that Moore has steadied his candidacy and that they should back — or at least avoid further antagonizing — someone who could soon be in the Senate.

McConnell, for instance, refrained Sunday from criticizing Moore or repeating earlier remarks indicating that the Senate might expel Moore if he were seated after numerous accusations of misconduct and unwanted overtures. Nine women have come forward in recent weeks to describe their encounters with Moore, including a woman who said that Moore molested her when she was 14 years old.

With the notable exception of Romney, many national Republicans seem to have shifted their approach: less active criticism of Moore and fewer threats of his swift expulsion from Congress, and more guarded comments, if any at all.

Trump, though, could prove far more vocal about the race, especially when he appears Friday in Pensacola, Fla., which is within the Mobile, Ala., media market.

Unlike many Republicans in Washington, Trump, who himself has been accused of sexual misconduct, never cut off Moore completely. On Nov. 21, he telegraphed his support when he repeated Moore’s denials of impropriety and attacked Jones. But until Monday, it was unclear how much more Trump would do to aid Moore’s campaign.

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Many top White House officials were not aware that Trump intended to fully tie himself to Moore on Monday; as in so many instances, they found out about his decision from his posts on Twitter. West Wing officials said Trump simply wants Republicans to retain control of the seat that Attorney General Jeff Sessions held for 20 years, and he is willing to avert his gaze from the allegations to stop Jones.

Speaking to a group of Republican senators last week, the president said he was not particularly enthused about Moore’s candidacy, but he felt like his victory would represent a better outcome than the election of a Democrat who would often oppose their agenda, according to a Republican official in the room for the conversation.