GOP senators grumble over Trump, RNC backing Moore
Senate Republicans are still trying to keep their distance from Roy Moore, creating a fresh break with President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee, which have re-embraced Moore less than a week before a key special Senate election despite accusations of child molestation against the Alabama Republican.
Both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC controlled by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, said they plan on staying out of the contest. Several Republican senators furiously protested the RNC’s decision on Tuesday.
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But there’s a clear sense of resignation among GOP senators who have tried to block Moore from winning the race, acknowledging that the explicit seal of approval from Trump has left them no good options in the Dec. 12 contest. McConnell has acknowledged that he can’t force Moore out of the race.
“That’s up to them,” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) said of the RNC’s renewed involvement in the race, throwing up his hands.
“I can’t blame them. Let’s face it, they represent the Republican Party,” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) added, speaking about the RNC. “Frankly, I think if he gets elected, that ought to be — that ought to settle an awful lot of the questions.”
The RNC sent $50,000 to the Alabama Republican Party to help Moore in the final week of the campaign. Moore campaigned with former White House strategist Steve Bannon on Tuesday night in Fairhope, an affluent suburb in a county Trump won with more than 70 percent of the vote.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said flatly that she does not think the RNC should be supporting Moore. On his Twitter account Tuesday, Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona, one of Moore’s loudest critics in the Senate, showed off a $100 check he made to the campaign of Moore’s Democratic foe, Doug Jones.
“I don’t understand that move,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the third-ranking Senate Republican, said of the RNC’s decision. “I guess that’s consistent with what the president wants to see happen, but it’s not consistent with what I’ve been saying. I just think, again, we’re putting ourselves in a situation where we’re going to have a cloud of uncertainty and a cloud of distraction come January.”
McConnell and allies of the majority leader say his position hasn’t shifted since The Washington Post last month printed the first allegations that Moore preyed on teenage girls when he was in his 30s. More than a half-dozen women have accused Moore of sexual misconduct, including some who were teenagers at the time.
“Look, I’ve made my position perfectly clear,” McConnell said. “I had hoped that Judge Moore would resign — in other words, withdraw from the race. That obviously is not going to happen. If he were to be elected, I think he would immediately have an issue with the Ethics Committee, which they would take up.”
“I don’t think he’s wavered at all in his opinion of Roy Moore,” said Josh Holmes, a former McConnell chief of staff. “I think what’s changed is the fact that Moore is inevitably going to [remain] the nominee.”
Moore didn’t seem eager to win McConnell’s backing.
Toward the beginning of his speech in Fairhope on Tuesday night, Moore ticked off a list of Trump’s unfulfilled promises, from building the wall to rolling back NAFTA. Why weren’t they getting done?
“Mitch doesn’t want it,” Moore said.