Whether Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore wins or loses his election on Dec. 12, it’s going to be bad news for President Donald Trump.
Moore has been credibly accused of inappropriate, possibly illegal, sexual misconduct with teenagers back when he was a 30-something district attorney decades ago. In early November he told radio host Sean Hannity, “These allegations are completely false and misleading.” But when his defense later shifted to include statements like, “I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother,” GOP support for his campaign began to hemorrhage. Stalwart conservative Sen. Ted Cruz withdrew his endorsement, and Moore lost the backing of the Republican National Committee and the Senate GOP leadership.
Trump’s response has been nuanced, reflecting both an awkward personal situation for the president, who has himself been accused of sexual misconduct, and a political quandary. The success of his presidency depends on the willingness of the U.S. Senate to pass the legislation he promised voters, including the centerpiece of his economic program, tax reform. That won’t get any easier if the narrow 52-48 GOP majority is sliced to 51-49.
And yet a Moore victory would put Senate Republicans in the position of having to investigate their new colleague for alleged misconduct that includes sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl and giving alcohol to a “date” who was under the legal drinking age in Alabama. The news stories of sexual misconduct would move to the Republican side of the aisle on Capitol Hill, where Democrats Sen. Al Franken and Rep. John Conyers have been dominating the headlines.
The controversial former Alabama Supreme Court judge was not Trump’s first choice. In September, the president campaigned in Huntsville for incumbent Republican Sen. Luther Strange, who was challenged by Moore in the GOP primary. Trump said at that time that if Moore won, he would be “campaigning like hell for him.” Moore won by 9 percentage points.
Now the White House says the president is too busy to campaign for Moore. But on Dec. 8, four days before Alabama voters go to the polls, Trump will hold a rally in Pensacola, Fla., about 20 miles from the Alabama state line and in the same media market as Mobile. Trump also made public statements critical of Moore’s opponent, Democrat Doug Jones. “I’ve looked at his record,” the president told reporters before Thanksgiving, “It’s terrible…