Trump throws Roy Moore a lifeline

 In Politics

President Donald Trump appeared to accept Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore’s denials of allegations of sexual misconduct on Tuesday and slammed the Democratic nominee in the special election, former prosecutor Doug Jones, as “soft on crime.”

Trump noted that Moore “totally denies” the allegations leveled by several women that Moore assaulted or pursued them when they were teenagers — and suggested, like some Moore supporters, that the accusations came out at a suspicious time.

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“I do have to say, 40 years is a long time,” Trump said, referring to the allegations, which date back to the 1970s. “He has run eight races, and this has never come up.”

That contrasts with other Republicans — including top Senate leaders, who have threatened to expel Moore if he wins the December 12 special election — who have said explictly that they believe Moore’s accusers.

Trump also attacked Jones — just as the Democrat is ratcheting up his campaign offensive against Moore, seizing on the assault and harassment charges more explicitly than he has in the past and using Trump’s own daughter to attack Moore.

“We don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat,” Trump said Tuesday before leaving the White House for the Thanksgiving holiday. “Jones — I’ve looked at his record. It’s terrible on crime. It’s terrible on the border. It’s terrible on the military.”

Jones’ campaign has begun airing two new television ads aimed at winning over Republicans who could be persuaded to cross over and vote for the Democrat. One ad, called “Voices,” began airing Monday night and highlights Ivanka Trump, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), and Attorney General Jeff Sessions saying they have no reason to doubt the accusations of a number of women who have accused Moore of pursuing them romantically while he was in his 30s.

“On Roy Moore’s disturbing actions, Ivanka Trump says, “There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children, and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts,'” the narrator in the 30-second ad says. “Jeff Sessions says, ‘I have no reason to doubt these young women.’ And Richard Shelby says he will ‘absolutely not’ vote for Roy Moore. Conservative voices, putting children and women over party; doing what’s right.”

The new ad marks a shift in how the Jones campaign has sought to handle the ongoing accusations about Moore from an increasing number of Alabama women. In the immediate aftermath of the first allegations reported by The Washington Post, Jones and his campaign dodged the media, hoping that the spotlight on Moore would drive national and local Republicans away from the former state Supreme Court justice and toward Jones. But with three weeks to go until the December 12 vote, Jones is ramping up his efforts to make the allegations the centerpiece of the special election.

Some polls have started to show Jones leading Moore, but Democrats say now is the time for him to be as active as possible and leverage the Republican divide over supporting Moore.

“Ivanka Trump, and people like that — they’re validators to a certain segment of the vote,” said Alabama state Rep. Anthony Daniels, a Democrat. “[H]aving validators and individuals that they probably trust make these type of comments is probably helpful in the race.”

Since the allegations against Moore, Jones has surged in most of the public polls of the race. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, which had hoped to push Moore out of the race, commissioned a poll that showed Jones with a 12-point lead over Moore.

Jones also has a financial advantage. The Democrat has outspent Moore on television advertising by a 14-to-1 margin. While Moore has lost support of top Senate Republicans, Jones has continued to benefit from Democratic senators sending out fundraising pitches for his campaign. NBC News reported last week that Jones was raising as much as $250,000 per day since the first accusations against Moore.

Support from Trump — who is popular among Alabama Republicans — could boost Moore, but the president declined to say whether he would campaign for the GOP nominee before the December 12 special election.

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