Senator Luther Strange and Judge Roy Moore have entered the final stretch of campaigning this week in a contentious primary election which seems to be about more than just the question of who will become Alabama’s next Senate candidate.
Vice President Mike Pence has emerged as Strange’s most visible advocate, while former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is backing Moore.
After he pays a visit to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Pence plans to go to Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city, for an evening rally just prior to Tuesday’s election.
For his part, Bannon is going to Fairhope — just outside Mobile, on the Gulf of Mexico — to join “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson at a Monday night “faith and family rally” with Moore.
Bannon also plans to appear on Fox News’ “The Sean Hannity’s Show,” which will be broadcast from the rally, giving Moore’s side one last chance to be heard by Hannity’s right-wing audience before the vote takes place.
Republicans in Washington are concerned that if Moore wins, it may signal big changes for the party’s 2018 midterm elections.
Strange has benefited from a $9 million-plus in spending budget from the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Moore has colored the campaign as an opportunity to reject McConnell, who gets less love from Alabama Republicans than Trump.
Trump’s visit to Alabama on Friday night was supposed to help Strange, and Trump told a crowd of thousands that the candidate has been a loyal ally in the fight to repeal former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
But Trump also acknowledged that Moore could possibly win.
“If Luther doesn’t win, they’re not going to say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time,” Trump told the crowd. “They’re going say, ‘Donald Trump, the President of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line.'”
Indeed, many of Trump’s core supporters appear to be backing Moore, the 70-year-old former state Supreme Court justice who was ousted from that job twice — first in 2003 for refusing to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments at a state court building, then again, recently, for refusing to abide by the US Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriages nationwide.
Trump also vowed to “fight like hell” for Moore if he defeats Strange.
Either Strange or Moore would be favored against the Democratic nominee, Doug Jones, in the December special election for the seat formerly held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, a seat which Strange has held since being appointed in February.
“If [Strange] loses, I think the reality is that the Republicans will still hold that seat,” White House legislative director Marc Short said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Well-known for his conservative stance on today’s hot topics (on Thursday night he told a debate audience that “abortion, sodomy, sexual perversion sweep our land), Republicans are worried that Democrats could use Moore’s remarks as a fundraising tool to put Republicans on the spot.
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