by Bridget Bowman · November 10, 2017
Roy Moore is facing a wave of criticism and national Republicans are bolting from his campaign — but will allegations of sexual misconduct matter in the Alabama Senate race?
Four women have accused Moore of sexual and romantic advances when they were teenagers — one when she was 14 — nearly four decades ago. At that time, Moore was in his 30s and an assistant district attorney.
Moore has denied the allegations, reported in the Washington Post, and said he will remain in the race. An aide with the Moore campaign said no campaign events would be cancelled over the weekend.
“I have never provided alcohol to minors, and I have never engaged in sexual misconduct,” Moore said in a statement Friday. “As a father of a daughter and a grandfather of five granddaughters, I condemn the actions of any man who engages in sexual misconduct not just against minors but against any woman.”
But questions remain as to whether Moore will lose more resources from national Republicans and other outside groups that could have supported his Senate run. And whether the allegations open the door for Democrat Doug Jones to become the first Democrat elected to the Senate in Alabama in more than 20 years.
A Moore campaign aide said they “were working to try to get some more background” relating to the Washington Post story. The source said they were looking into whether Democratic operatives were involved in pushing out the story, and the backgrounds of the women named in the report.
Washington Post reporters wrote that the women did not come forward to them. Instead, the reporters wrote that they heard of the allegations and then contacted the women.
Moore will also make at least two public appearances over the weekend, one at a Veterans Day event Saturday, and another on Sunday. A campaign aide could not immediately provide details of the events.
Some national Republicans are already distancing themselves from Moore. On Friday the National Republican Senatorial Committee severed ties with his campaign.
The NRSC withdrew from a joint fundraising committee that had been set up between the Moore campaign, the NRSC, the Alabama Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee.
Moore campaign consultant Brett Doster said the NRSC’s decision would not affect their campaign.
“The judge is innocent and the judge is a hard campaigner and I don’t think it’s going to affect us at all,” Doster said. “Not having their help is not going to be the end of the world.”
Doster said the campaign had raised more than $100,000 dollars since the Washington Post story published.
As of the most recent fundraising quarter, which ended Sept. 30, Moore had raised nearly $3.5 million, and had more than $540,000 in the bank. Jones had raised $1.6 million and had $1 million in cash on hand.
Doster said the campaign had been in touch with the RNC and the Alabama Republican Party, which he expected to remain in the fundraising committee.
“We’re in good shape,” said Doster. He said RNC officials “urged us to do everything we can to focus on the issues.”
One national GOP strategist said Republican lawyers were scrambling Thursday to figure out whether it was possible to replace Moore on the ballot before the Dec. 12 election.
“You have precious few options if Roy Moore remains and decides to remain,” the strategist said. “There’s basically nothing that national Republicans can do.”
According to state law, the window to alter the ballot has passed. But the state party could disqualify Moore as the nominee, meaning votes cast for Moore would not count.
A state party spokeswoman, the party chairwoman, and members of the Alabama Republican Party steering committee did not respond to multiple requests for comment Thursday and Friday.
Doster said the campaign had been in touch with the state party. Asked if the state party was considering disqualifying Moore as the nominee, Doster said. “No. I don’t think they are.”
Jonathan Gray, a GOP consultant in Alabama, also said he had been in touch with members of the steering committee, and it was not likely the party would disqualify the nominee.
“You’re asking them to self-destruct their party,” Gray said.
Doster said they had experienced an outpouring of support, and he was confident Moore’s base would rally around their campaign.
The Great America Alliance PAC, which backed Moore in the primary and supports President Donald Trump, spent thousands on get out the vote efforts in the runoff. A source close to the group said it still planned to be involved in the general election.
The group has so far been focused on spending against Jones, and will continue to do so. It will also likely provide some support to Moore should he remain in the race.
“What we certainly won’t do is follow the lead of the Senate leadership and their staff members who have been wrong on every single election item and do not understand this Trump coalition,” said the source.
But the allegations could cool other resources from the Republican Party establishment.
A GOP strategist said in 2012, GOP donors pressured the party committees not to spend resources supporting Todd Akin. Akin, who was running for Senate in Missouri, had said pregnancy would not result from a “legitimate rape.” The NRSC said it would not support Akin, but did end up funneling money to run television ads for Akin.
“There were a number of major donors that said they would not contribute if a dime of their money went to Missouri,” the GOP strategist said. “I got to imagine that is on steroids with this allegation.”
It was unlikely that the Senate Leadership Fund, a GOP Super PAC aligned with McConnell, would have supported Moore in the general election. The group had supported Strange in the primary, but signaled it could support Moore after Moore won the primary.
Asked about the group’s involvement in the Alabama race moving forward, SLF spokesman Chris Pack told Roll Call, “We wouldn’t be having this conversation right now if Sen. Strange were the nominee. It will be up to Alabama voters to decide how serious these allegations are, and no amount of money can change how they feel about these allegations.”
A GOP strategist close to SLF said there was no chance the group would spend resources to support Moore.
GOP Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri was also expected at a fundraiser for Moore’s campaign in Albertville, Ala., next Friday, according to an email invitation obtained by Roll Call. Blunt’s spokeswoman said he will not be in Alabama next week.
Democrats were largely quiet in the wake of the Washington Post allegations. Jones issued a one-sentence statement saying Moore should address the charges.
Zac McCrary, a Democratic pollster based in Alabama, said the allegations could have an impact on the race.
“I do think that it is a real wildcard on turnout. Even if you have a Republican who can’t stomach voting for a Democrat, they can just stay home,” McCrary said.
Democrats argue that a decent swath of Republicans do not support Moore. They often point to his last statewide election for the state Supreme Court in 2012. Moore won by four points, while GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the state by 23 points.
Matt Blizek, elections field director at MoveOn.org, which has endorsed Jones, said a combination of GOP division and Moore’s past controversies already helped Democratic chances.
“All of that, now plus this scandal, really does make for the kind of perfect storm that’s needed for Democrats to win a Senate race like this,” Blizek said.
Republicans (mostly) confident
One national Republican strategist believed the allegations put the seat in play, but Gray and other Republican strategists in Alabama doubted that the allegations would lower Moore’s chances of winning the Dec. 12 election.
“I don’t see it changing anything because voters will give Moore the benefit of the doubt of it not being true,” said one consultant who’s worked on Alabama races.
Gray suggested the recent allegations could energize GOP voters who might not have turned out in December.
“Now they want to defend their guy that they think is being attacked by the liberal national media,” Gray said.
Some Alabama Republicans raised doubts about the timing of the report and questioned why such allegations had not come out in Moore’s two decades in the public eye.
Moore was elected — and twice removed — from the state supreme court. He also unsuccessfully ran for Alabama governor.
“I don’t believe that for a second,” said David Ferguson, a GOP strategist from the state. “Politically speaking, Roy Moore’s been around for a long time. I think people know his reputation. And given his opponents over the last 20 years I believe some if not all of this would have come out in time.”
Perry Hooper, who chaired Trump’s campaign in Alabama, also doubted the allegations.
“You have to ask yourself if any of this was factual, why didn’t this young lady, these other ladies come forward before?” Hooper said.
Hooper compared the allegations to revelations in the final month of the presidential campaign that Trump bragged about groping women while on set for Access Hollywood. A number of women then came forward, charging Trump with sexual misconduct.
“The left and the Democratic Party tried to do the same thing to President Trump,” Hooper said.
Gray, the GOP consultant, noted Republicans still supported Trump even after the Access Hollywood tape leak.
“We voted for a man that 5 years before had been caught on tape being a sexual predator … How are things different now?” Gray said.