The Alabama Republican Party is shrugging off pressure from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.) to disqualify Roy Moore as its nominee for Senate.
Members of the state party’s executive committee met in person and by phone Wednesday to discuss the Alabama Senate race, according to sources familiar with the discussions, but made no move to strip Moore of the nomination. That leaves McConnell without a clear way to block Moore from winning a Dec. 12 special election without jeopardizing Republican control of the seat and diminishing his Senate majority by one vote.
McConnell and other Senate Republicans had pressured the state party to ditch Moore by arguing that he has no chance of winning the race, and even if he does, he faces a Senate Ethics Committee investigation and expulsion vote.
“The Alabama Republican Party has to come to grips with the fact that they’re going to lose that seat. Do they want to continue to back someone accused of these horrible things and also lose the seat?” said a source close to the Senate Republican leadership.
A National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) poll conducted Sunday and Monday found Moore trailing Democrat Doug Jones by 12 points.
The source argued that if Alabama Republicans refuse to disqualify Moore, “you lose your credibility, your reputation and the seat.”
“If that’s something they want to do, it’s their prerogative, but that doesn’t seem a good deal to me,” the source added.
That argument, however, is gaining little traction with Republican officials in Alabama, who are leery of overturning the results of the GOP primary by disqualifying Moore and pushing an alternative write-in candidate.
Whatever they do, it’s too late to pull Moore’s name off the ballot; people have been voting absentee in the state since Oct. 18.
One Alabama-based GOP operative warned that Moore’s loyal supporters would retaliate against any state official who voted to invalidate his nomination.
“Any one of the people on that committee who makes a move to dissociate the party from Moore will have signed their own death warrant for future advancement in the party,” said the source.
McConnell has floated the possibility of pushing a write-in candidate as an alternative to Moore, but Republican senators say that gambit has virtually no chance of succeeding as long as Moore stays in the race.
The most likely result is the write-in candidate and Moore would split the GOP vote, giving the seat to Jones.
“I don’t think a write-in candidate, no matter how popular, would have a reasonable chance of winning the seat,” said one Republican senator.
Democrats winning the seat could put McConnell’s top priority, tax reform, in jeopardy by slimming the Senate Republican majority by one vote.
Moore made clear Thursday at a press conference with Alabama religious leaders that he has no intention of quitting the race.
“I’m gonna tell you who needs to step down, that’s Mitch McConnell,” he tweeted.
“I’ve taken a stand in the past, I’ll take a stand in the future and I’ll quit standing when they lay me in that box and put me in the ground,” he added.
More than a dozen religious leaders vouched for Moore at the press conference and presented a letter declaring, “We stand with Judge Moore, a man of integrity who has never wavered from his valiant defense of the unborn, the Ten Commandments, and the Constitution.”
Republicans control 52 seats and can afford no more than two defections on the tax package, assuming all Democrats vote against it.
Senate Republicans say the winner of the Dec. 12 special election can demand to be seated as soon as the Alabama secretary of State certifies the results.
That process would take roughly a week, meaning the winner would replace Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeThe biggest political upsets of the decade State ‘certificate of need’ laws need to go GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE (R-Ala.) the week of Dec. 19.
The Senate is not scheduled to debate and vote on its tax-reform package until the week after Thanksgiving, making it highly uncertain whether the tax-reform package will be finalized in a Senate-House conference and put on President Trump’s desk by that date.
Senate Republican leaders tried to pressure Moore earlier in the week to quit by raising the specter of a Senate Ethics Committee investigation and expulsion vote.
If he dropped out, a write-in candidate would then have a good chance of beating Jones.
“In the remote chance he wins the seat he’s going to face a public trial where he’s going to testify about things he doesn’t want to talk about under oath,” warned the source close to GOP leaders.
But Moore appears unfazed by the threat.
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He tweeted Thursday that McConnell and other Senate GOP leaders are subjecting him to a harsher standard than they are applying to Democratic Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenPolitical world mourns loss of comedian Jerry Stiller Maher to Tara Reade on timing of sexual assault allegation: ‘Why wait until Biden is our only hope?’ Democrats begin to confront Biden allegations MORE (Minn.), who apologized earlier in the day for “completely inappropriate” behavior after a women accused him of forcible kissing and groping her without consent.
Moore argued that McConnell only called for an investigation into Franken after Franken admitted some guilt and a picture emerged of him pretending to fondle his accuser while she was asleep.
By contrast, Moore tweeted, McConnell and other GOP leaders have said Moore should immediately quit the race or face expulsion, even though Moore has flatly denied the allegations of sexual misconduct against him.