President Donald Trump is going all in for Roy Moore — even if he didn’t actually mention his name.
Trump took to Twitter on Sunday morning to slam Moore’s opponent, Democrat Doug Jones, as Moore seeks to overcome accusations that he pursued inappropriate relationships with teenagers when he was in his 30s, which have dominated coverage of Alabama’s Dec. 12 special election.
“The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY. Jones would be a disaster!” Trump wrote.
He added later: “I endorsed Luther Strange in the Alabama Primary. He shot way up in the polls but it wasn’t enough. Can’t let Schumer/Pelosi win this race. Liberal Jones would be BAD!”
The tweets come as Trump has become increasingly vocal about the charged Alabama Senate race, which just weeks ago was seen as a lock for Republicans. In the wake of a slew of accusations against Moore — including that he molested a 14-year-old girl when he was in his 30s — many Republican leaders called on Moore to drop out of the race, though Moore vehemently denied the accusations. The White House at first called on Moore to drop out “if these allegations are true.”
Trump — who has faced his own accusations of sexual harassment and misconduct — seemed wary of turning on Moore. When she was pressed on the race, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders repeatedly said Trump would leave the decision to the people of Alabama.
But before leaving for Florida ahead of Thanksgiving, Trump abandoned his own silence on the race.
“He says it didn’t happen,” Trump told reporters Tuesday. “And, you know, you have to listen to him also. You’re talking about, he said 40 years ago this did not happen.”
At the same time, he hit Jones, a former prosecutor, as “bad on crime, bad on borders, bad with the military, bad for the Second Amendment.”
Moore’s campaign quickly fired out an email thanking Trump for “the strong words of support.”
Trump remains popular in Alabama, where he beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by 28 points. Still, backing Moore is viewed as risky within the White House. As one aide put it, the danger is “that Jones still wins and then the president looks weakened.”
And across Washington, Republicans increasingly view the Alabama contest as a no-win situation. A Jones victory would tighten the already slim Republican Senate majority to just one seat and open up the possibility that Democrats could retake the Senate in 2018. A Moore win, on the other hand, could taint the Republican Party nationally and lead to time-consuming debates over whether to expel Moore from the Senate.
For a Republican Party that expects to struggle next year with affluent suburban voters — particularly women — the prospect of welcoming an accused child predator to the Senate is nauseating.
Trump, however, appears to have calculated that his base would recoil if he abandoned Moore and that he can help push him over the top.
For many Republicans who might have stayed home, the presidential argument could move the needle, said Richard Fording, a political science professor at the University of Alabama.
“What Donald Trump does by weighing in like this is he helps them rationalize doing what they probably would like to do, which is to vote for the Republican,” he said.
And the 2016 election, during which a recording of Trump bragging about groping women emerged in the final weeks and threatened to derail his candidacy, provides a road map for Republicans concerned about Moore but unwilling to vote for a Democrat.
“Many of them have been through this before, they were able to resolve that,” Fording said. “Trump has changed the way we evaluate candidates.”
It remains unclear if Trump will travel to Alabama to campaign for Moore, though the president has indicated that is possible. The White House on Sunday said there was no campaign trip to Alabama on Trump’s schedule.
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