Roy Moore Gets Trump Endorsement and R.N.C. Funding for Senate Race
By RICHARD FAUSSET, ALAN BLINDER and JONATHAN MARTIN
The New York Times
AUBURN, Ala. — President Trump on Monday strongly endorsed Roy S. Moore, the Republican nominee for a United States Senate seat here, prompting the Republican National Committee to restore its support for a candidate accused of sexual misconduct against teenage girls.
Mr. Trump’s endorsement strengthened what had been his subdued, if symbolically significant, embrace of Mr. Moore’s campaign. At Mr. Trump’s direct urging, and to the surprise of some Republican Party officials, the national committee, which severed ties to Mr. Moore weeks ago, opened a financial spigot that could help Mr. Moore with voter turnout in the contest’s closing days.
“Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama,” Mr. Trump posted on Twitter on Monday, before he formally endorsed Mr. Moore during a telephone call. “We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more.”
Mr. Trump’s endorsement and the party’s reversal hours later came a day after Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, had stepped back from his earlier criticism of Mr. Moore, saying Alabama voters should “make the call” on whether to send Mr. Moore to the Senate. Taken together, the week’s developments suggested that Republicans were increasingly confident that Mr. Moore is well positioned to defeat Doug Jones, the Democratic nominee, in next week’s special election.
Although Mr. Moore appeared to be regaining important support in his party, some of his accusers pushed back at recent remarks in which he said he did not even know them, let alone behave inappropriately.
It is not clear whether the back-and-forth will do anything to change the contours of the race, which is especially close by the standards of a state where Republicans tend to rout their rivals, but many party officials believe that Mr. Moore has steadied his candidacy and that they should back — or at least avoid further antagonizing — someone who could soon be in the Senate.
Mr. McConnell, for instance, refrained Sunday from criticizing Mr. Moore or repeating earlier remarks indicating that the Senate might expel Mr. Moore if he were seated after numerous accusations of misconduct and unwanted overtures. Nine women have come forward in recent weeks to describe their encounters with Mr. Moore, including a woman who said that Mr. Moore molested her when she was 14 years old.
With the notable exception of Mr. Romney, many national Republicans seem to have shifted their approach: less active criticism of Mr. Moore and fewer threats of his swift expulsion from Congress, and more guarded comments, if any at all. Mr. Trump, though, could prove far more vocal about the race, especially when he appears Friday in Pensacola, Fla., which is within the Mobile, Ala., media market.
Unlike many Republicans in Washington, Mr. Trump, who himself has been accused of sexual misconduct, never cut off Mr. Moore completely. On Nov. 21, he telegraphed his support when he repeated Mr. Moore’s denials of impropriety and attacked Mr. Jones. But until Monday, it was unclear how much more Mr. Trump would do to aid Mr. Moore’s campaign.
Many top White House officials were not aware that Mr. Trump intended to fully tie himself to Mr. Moore on Monday; as in so many instances, they found out about his decision from his posts on Twitter. West Wing officials said Mr. Trump simply wants Republicans to retain control of the seat that Attorney General Jeff Sessions held for 20 years, and he is willing to avert his gaze from the allegations to stop Mr. Jones.
Speaking to a group of Republican senators last week, the president said he was not particularly enthused about Mr. Moore’s candidacy, but he felt as if his victory would represent a better outcome than the election of a Democrat who would often oppose their agenda, according to a Republican official in the room for the conversation.
Yet Mr. Trump disregarded, and irritated, some of his more cautious advisers on Monday in prompting the R.N.C. to restore get-out-the-vote funds to Mr. Moore, according to one Republican in contact with the president. The Senate Republican campaign arm, which is controlled by Mr. McConnell, had no plans to offer financial help to Mr. Moore, officials said.
Even to some of his allies, Mr. Trump’s decision to link the party to someone accused of preying on teenagers marked another example of his impulsive style and penchant for creating new controversies when he is under fire.
Two factors appear to have moved Mr. Trump. He likes to associate with winners, and Mr. Moore has apparently stabilized in the polls. Further, no other women have come forward recently to level additional accusations against Mr. Moore.
But Mr. Moore, who was twice effectively removed as chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, has been unable to outrun the accusations that became public last month.
So far, the president’s preferred form of support for Mr. Moore has been to go after Mr. Jones, whom he criticized as a “puppet” of Democratic leaders in Congress. Electing Mr. Jones, he wrote on Twitter, “would hurt our great Republican Agenda of low on taxes, tough crime, strong on military and borders…& so much more.”
Yet in Alabama, where the state’s senior Republican lawmaker, Senator Richard C. Shelby, cast a write-in vote for a Republican other than Mr. Moore, the ultimate value of Mr. Trump’s endorsement is unclear and perhaps even negligible. Although Mr. Trump easily carried Alabama when he was on the ballot, the candidate he preferred over Mr. Moore lost the primary runoff by nine percentage points.
Still, Mr. Moore’s allies believe that the White House’s backing could help.
“The biggest benefit we get from this is momentum and excitement about the campaign,” said Bill Armistead, the chairman of Mr. Moore’s campaign, who said Mr. Moore would not attend the president’s Pensacola rally.
On Monday in Auburn, a college town that is the cultural heart of a county where Mr. Trump won 59 percent of the vote, Andrew Orman said the president’s endorsement affirmed his support for Mr. Moore. And he thought it wise that Republicans in Washington seemed to be moving away from condemnation and toward insistence that Alabama voters should make up their own minds.
“Let the people use their own judgment or whatever,” Mr. Orman said.
But the president’s endorsement did not seem to matter to some voters, including supporters of Mr. Trump.
“I like Trump, I’m a fan of Trump,” said Kyle Smith, 20, who is studying to be a welder and said he needed more time to study the race. “But, I mean, I’m not making my decision off him.”