President Donald Trump will not campaign for Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore before the Dec. 12 special election, a White House official said Monday.
The president had held the door open to campaigning for Moore last week, when he all but endorsed his candidacy while attacking his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones. Trump also made public statements in which he raised doubts about the accounts of women who have accused Moore of harassment decades ago, when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.
The White House official told The Associated Press that Trump would not travel to Alabama on Moore’s behalf. The official was not authorized to discuss the president’s plans publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Over the weekend, Trump took to Twitter to bash Jones, saying that electing him as Alabama’s next senator “would be a disaster” and warning of damage to his legislative agenda.
“The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY,” Trump wrote from Florida, referring to Democrats’ congressional leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.
Trump has declined to follow the path of other mainstream Republican leaders, who have called on Moore to step aside. Republican lawmakers are considering expelling Moore should he win the seat.
For weeks, accusations that Moore, now 70, molested or assaulted two teens, ages 14 and 16 — and tried to date several others — while he was in his 30s have taken center stage in the heated Alabama race. Moore denied the allegations of misconduct and said he never dated “underage” women.
Trump’s words could be a boost to the Moore camp, since Democrats’ hopes in the race partly depend upon peeling away Republican support from Moore in the deeply red state.
Moore’s campaign quickly touted Trump’s comments on social media and in a fundraising email to supporters that lashed out at Republican leaders as much as it did Jones.
“President Trump calls them like he sees them. And, he’s got my opponents in D.C. scrambling,” Moore wrote in a fundraising email.
Moore also debuted a new TV ad that said the candidate was being hit by “false allegations” in a “scheme by liberal elites and the Republican establishment” to sink his candidacy for U.S. Senate. The ad does not describe the allegations.
Jones, speaking to reporters in Birmingham, shrugged off Trump’s criticisms, saying he would not be a partisan voter. He said Alabamians are focused on issues such as the economy, education and health care.
“My record speaks for itself,” Jones said. “I think I am very strong on the issues that the people of Alabama care for.”
Jones, a former federal prosecutor, said he would be an independent voice in the U.S. Senate, similarly to his political mentor, the late U.S. Sen. Howell Heflin, who represented the state for nearly 20 years.
Trump backed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in the Alabama Republican primary but moved quickly to embrace Moore after he won. The seat opened up after Republican Jeff Sessions was tapped as U.S. attorney general.