The normalization of Roy Moore has begun.
President Donald Trump officially endorsed the Alabama Senate hopeful on Monday after weeks of tiptoeing around the issue. White House spokesman Raj Shah claimed that the two men “had a positive call” focusing on the “state of the Alabama Senate race.” A press release from Moore’s camp claimed that the POTUS referred to the former judge as a “fighter.”
Trump reportedly stamped his seal of approval with a rousing call to action. “Go get ‘em, Roy!” he said.
Moore responded in a statement that he was “honored” to “receive the support and endorsement” of the U.S. president.
“President Trump knows that the future of his conservative agenda in Congress hinges on this election,” the Republican said. “I look forward to fighting alongside the President to strengthen our military, secure our border, protect our gun rights, defend the sanctity of life, and confirm conservative judges to courts around this nation.”
Trump’s slow embrace of the vociferously anti-LGBTQ politician has been in the works for weeks. After four women accused the former district attorney of soliciting them for sex when they were teenagers in a Nov. 9 expose from the Washington Post, the Commander-in-Chief has repeatedly attacked Moore’s opponent. Trump called him a “Schumer/Pelosi puppet” who would be a “disaster” if elected to the Senate in a Nov. 26 tweet, although he denied that the sentiments were a direct endorsement of the GOP candidate.
But even as Trump declined to give Moore his official approval, he has maintained that a Republican vote in the Senate is necessary to pass a tax bill that was pushed through the upper legislative body on Friday. Currently, the GOP holds onto a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate.
“I can tell you one thing for sure: we don’t need a liberal person in there, a DemocratJones,” Trump claimed on Nov. 21.
Trump taking that last step to endorse Moore, while no surprise, has opened an important door for his campaign. The Republican National Committee announced last month that it would be discontinuing funding to Moore’s Senate bid. But after the president came out in support of the controversial conservative, the RNC suggested the embargo would be lifted.
“The RNC is the political arm of the President and we support the President,” an official with the National Republican Party told CNN.
Associated Press reporter Steve Peoples claims that, thus far, the Committee’s financial support for Moore hasn’t translated to the Republican’s bank account. “Per sources, RNC support for embattled Alabama Republican Roy Moore is simply a check for $50,000,” Peoples tweeted on Tuesday.
But should the RNC toss a giant bag of money Moore’s way, it could make a significant impact in a race few expected would be this close. At the time of writing, the Republican nominee leads by just 1.5 percentage points, according to poll averages from RealClearPolitics. Recent surveys of Alabama voters are all over the place. Some recent polls have put Moore ahead by as much as six points in the runoff election for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacated Senate seat, while others project that Jones is up by three.
This is quite the reversal of fortune: Before nine women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct, he led by double digits in the deeply conservative state.
But the more relevant statistic is the difference in their war chests: Jones outraised his opponent by more than a 5-to-1 margin between Oct. 1 and Nov. 22. As Alabamians have found, $10 million buys a great deal of airtime. Local news outlets have reported that his campaign has released an “onslaught” of ads on radio and television attacking Moore’s troubling history. One commercial referred to the conservative as an “abuser,” while another uses quotes from prominent Republicans to condemn the numerous allegations.
Research has shown that the public visibility money buys matters on Election Day. The candidate with the most cash wins the race 91 percent of the time.
One factor that Jones will no longer have in his corner, however, is the mass Republican exodus away from Moore’s campaign. Prominent conservatives have softened their criticism of Moore after a bevy of Senators called for his resignation last month.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the decision would be up to voters in a Sunday interview with Face the Nation. After initially urging Moore to drop out of the race, House Speaker Paul Ryan told NPR last week that he is “focused on Congress” at the moment, not allegations against his potential future colleague. Ryan simultaneously reiterated his stated support for the Republican’s accusers, saying the claims were “very, very credible.”
But it was Mike Huckabee who most succinctly encapsulated the rapidly changing tide on Moore. The former presidential candidate told Fox News on Monday that if Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) can keep their seats in the Senate, both of whom have been accused of assault, there’s no reason to disqualify Moore.
Conyers tendered his resignation just hours after Huckabee made these comments.
After giving Moore his presidential thumbs-up, Trump is scheduled to campaign for Moore ahead of the Dec. 12 electionseven despite Press Secretary Sarah Sanders claiming he wouldn’t have the time. As is customary under his tenure, the New York Times reports that many of the president’s closest advisors didn’t know about the endorsement until it was announced on his Twitter page.
“[Trump] likes to associate with winners,” the Times explains.
Moore, one of the nation’s most reliably homophobic figures, has called for the criminalization of sodomy and has compared same-sex marriage to slavery. He was dismissed from the Alabama Supreme Court after attempting to block same-sex marriages in Alabama two years ago.