On Wednesday, Donald Trump warned Alabama Republicans that they should not choose 2017 GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore for a rematch against Democratic Sen. Doug Jones. Trump assured his followers that he had “NOTHING against Roy Moore,” who multiple women have said preyed on them when they were teenagers. However, Trump declared, “Roy Moore cannot win, and the consequences will be devastating....Judges and Supreme Court Justices!”
Moore, who is mulling another Senate campaign, was not dissuaded, though. The former state Supreme Court chief justice, who couldn’t resist once again delighting in his well-earned reputation for homophobia, soon tweeted in response, “Ever wonder why the mere mention of my name scares the ‘hell’ out of the Washington DC establishment, liberals, and LGBT? Like Pres Trump I want to see America great again, but that is a job only God can do!” Moore also told the Associated Press that he wasn’t going to let Trump’s opposition keep him out of the race.
Moore has been openly considering seeking a rematch against Jones, who beat him 50-48 in 2017, for a few months. On Tuesday, Rep. Bradley Byrne, one of a few Republicans already running in next March’s Alabama primary, told The Hill that unnamed sources close to Moore had told him that the former judge would enter the race this June. A second member of the Alabama House delegation, whom The Hill did not identify, also said that he’d heard the same thing.
Moore’s team didn’t comment on the story, though Moore himself tweeted it out and added that Byrne “knows that if I run I will beat Doug Jones.” A few hours later, Trump told his followers that they should not back Moore because he would not beat Jones.
Moore, who defeated appointed Sen. Luther Strange in the 2017 runoff, is one of the few people in modern Republican politics to beat a Trump-endorsed candidate in a primary, but he may have a much tougher time overcoming the White House’s opposition in 2020 if he tries again. Last time, Trump spoke well of Moore even while he was stumping for Strange. Trump even said that he “might have made a mistake” by not backing Moore instead of Strange―a statement he made at what was supposed to be a rally for Strange.
Things could go very differently, though, in a primary in which Trump is actually opposing Moore. In today’s environment, when a tweet from Trump is often the biggest factor in deciding who wins or loses a GOP primary, that distinction could indeed make all the difference. It doesn’t help Moore that Alabama requires a runoff in primaries where no one takes a majority, so that he can’t just coast to the nomination with a plurality of the vote.
It’s not clear who Trump actually wants to be Team Red’s nominee in Alabama, but one GOP politician has a theory. Party fundraiser Perry Hooper, a former state representative, recently told NBC that Trump quizzed him about the GOP field at a White House meeting a few weeks ago, and that Trump “specifically asked” about former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville.
Hooper went on to say that Trump remembered that Byrne had asked him to end his presidential bid in 2016 after the Access Hollywood tape surfaced in which Trump was heard bragging about sexually assaulting women. Hooper further recounted that Trump “asked me about Coach Tub, and he asked if he was with me in 2016, and I told him he was,” and speculated that Trump was open to endorsing Tuberville.
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