Alabama Senate hopeful Roy Moore is virtually tied with his opponent in an Alabama special election in a new poll.
The controversial GOP candidate leads Democrat Doug Jones by less than a percentage point in the first surveys conducted after four women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct. The 70-year-old boasts 46.4 percent in a poll from Decision Desk and Opinion Survey, as opposed to 46 percent for Jones.
Moore has led by as many as 22 points in the race. Polling averages from Real Clear Politics showed the former Alabama judge ahead by six points prior to the allegations going public.
A bombshell report from the Washington Post published Thursday claims that Moore engaged in predatory behavior with four teenage girls while a district attorney in Alabama. One of Moore’s accusers, Leigh Corfman, says that in 1979, a then 32-year-old Moore picked her up outside of a courthouse, gave her his phone number, and then took her out twice. On their second date, he instructed her to undress and then fondled her over her bra and panties.
Corfman was just 14 during the encounter. The legal age of consent in Alabama is 16.
Multiple Republican Senators have called upon Moore to drop out of the race, including Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell, Arizona’s John McCain, South Dakota’s John Thune, and Montana’s Steve Daines. Utah Senator Mike Lee, who was once one of Moore’s most vocal supporters, has demanded his campaign remove Lee’s face from all promotional materials.
By Thursday, The Atlantic reports that 19 of the 52 Republicans currently serving in the Senate had called upon him to concede.
Moore has refused to go quietly. In an initial statement, he referred to the numerous, well-sourced reports as “garbage” and the “definition of fake news.” But during a later interview with Sean Hannity, the anti-LGBTQ extremist said he couldn’t recall propositioning these particular women. Moore told the Fox News host he “dated a lot of young ladies” after returning from the military in 1974.
“[D]o you remember dating girls that young at that time?” Hannity asked.
“Not generally no,” Moore claimed during a Thursday broadcast of the conservative talking head’s syndicated radio show. “If I did, I’m not going to dispute anything, but I don’t remember anything like that.”
He added that pedophilia would not reflect his “customary behavior.”
It’s difficult to say how the reports will impact the final outcome of the Dec. 12 election. Surveys at the moment are scarce, but an unscientific, informal poll from the Montgomery Advertiser found that 23 percent of respondents said that the allegations “changed everything” in regards to their vote.
Other Moore supporters, however, say that the Washington Post story changes nothing.
A dozen Alabama voters told NBC News that the reports hadn’t changed their minds, and some even reported that the exposé had only made them more resolute.
Voters claimed that the reports amounted to a “distraction” and a “he said, she said” situation. One of Moore’s supporters said that his sexual misconduct was nothing more than “mistakes [made] in the past,” arguing that “we all have sins.” Another of the former justice’s backers stated that the story had done nothing but “lit up Alabamians.”
A man who declined to give his name claimed that Moore “could have killed Obama and we wouldn’t care.”
Charges of pedophilia are just one of the numerous controversies that have surfaced during the final weeks of Moore’s campaign. As an Alabama judge, he attempted to block a lesbian parent from having unsupervised visitation rights, claiming that her sexual orientation posed a danger to her children. Old comments made during a 2005 interview with C-SPAN2 resurfaced this September, in which Moore advocated that homosexuality be criminalized.
Moore became a national figure after attempting to block same-sex marriages in Alabama, for which he would be ousted from the state’s Supreme Court. One of the nation’s most dedicated opponents of equality, he has compared marriage equality to slavery and blamed gay people for the September 11 attacks.