The war between Washington establishment Republicans and rabid pro-Trumpers in the states reached a tantalizing boiling point Monday when Senate Majority Mitch McConnell called on Alabama's Republican nominee for Senate, Roy Moore, to withdraw from the race.
"I believe the women, yes," McConnell said of a Washington Post piece in which four women went on the record to say Moore had sexually preyed on them when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers. By extension, McConnell was also saying that he believed the Post over Moore, who has spent the last several days refuting the report as "absolutely unbelievable."
McConnell's remarks came after Alabama Republican Party Chair Terry Lathan sent a shot across the bow at any GOP elected official who dares oppose Moore's candidacy.
“It would be a serious error for any current elected GOP official or candidate to publicly endorse another party’s candidate, an independent, a third party or a write in candidate in a general election as well,” Terry Lathan told the Alabama Political Reporter Sunday in an interview posted Monday morning.
Lathan proceeded to explain the state party rule on "denying ballot access" for up to six years to any Republican office holder that either "publicly participated" or "publicly supported" the nominee of another political party. Presumably, that would punish backers of an Independent write-in campaign for someone like Luther Strange, who Moore soundly beat in the GOP primary.
As Lathan circled the Alabama wagons around Moore, Washington Republicans coalesced behind McConnell. Shortly after McConnell publicly broke with Moore, Republican senators like Susan Collins of Maine and Orrin Hatch of Utah called on Moore to "withdraw" and said Strange would be an "excellent alternative."
Now let's just pause for a second and appreciate what this moment represents: A tear in the very fabric of the Republican coalition. Loosely speaking, it's Washington Republicans telling the very same tea party-type voters who propelled them to power in the Obama era that they believe the "fake news" media and the reporters Trump has been branded the "enemy of the American people" over Alabama's hometown boy, Roy Moore.
McConnell may also harbor very real concerns about the electability of Moore, given recent polling, and boy does he ever need to protect the slim two-vote majority he holds in the Senate. But that doesn't make today's GOP split between Washington and Alabama over Roy Moore any less extraordinary. And it's not just a disagreement over strategy for many Alabamans. Though some simply despise Democrats more than they despise a pedophile, many of Moore's supporters literally believe he is the victim of a smear campaign because they've been primed to so distrust actual facts and reporting.
“The timing of it is a little bit suspicious,” Sallie Bryant, GOP chairwoman of Jefferson County, Alabama, told Bloomberg News. Her feeling was echoed by others.
Debbie Harrelson, a 61-year-old medical representative from Hoover, Alabama, said the allegations fall into a suspicious pattern of the news media reporting charges from women impugning the character of conservatives.
“It’s too long ago, it’s a he said she said,” Harrelson said before the Saturday breakfast of coffee and donuts. “He’s had forty years of service to the state of Alabama and he’s proven himself to me so I don’t care.”
Compare that to the chair of the National Republican Senate Committee, Cory Gardner of Colorado.
In other words, if Alabama's Republican voters are deranged enough to elect a pedophile to represent them in the U.S. Senate, we should reject the will of the people and nuke him ourselves. That takes 67 votes and reportedly hasn't been done since 1862.
Daily Kos’s David Nir theorized that McConnell has come out against Moore's candidacy because he’s been spooked by state polling in the race. But the force and speed with which Senate Republicans are mounting this battle suggests something more—they are worried about being tied nationally to the state election of a child molester. Alabamans may not believe it, but Senate Republicans might be looking at a core GOP voting bloc—voters in the suburbs who already detest Donald Trump—and realizing that they stand to lose a lot more than just one race. Next year, they could very well be facing another 2012 “War On Women” scenario at the very same time that Democrats are fielding a historic number of female candidates.