Senate Republicans are keeping their distance from Roy Moore, the U.S. Senate candidate from Alabama, despite President Trump’s recent endorsement, renewed funding from the Republican National Committee and Tuesday’s rally featuring former White House advisor Stephen K. Bannon.
Moore’s campaign continues to divide Republicans worried that their party may be irreparably damaged by supporting a candidate accused of sexual molestation and misconduct decades ago as a young prosecutor who allegedly dated teenagers, one as young as 14.
Unlike the RNC, the National Republican Senatorial Committee has no plans to resume funding for the Moore campaign that it halted last month after several women made their allegations public.
“The NRSC’s position has not changed and will not change,” Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), the chairman, told NBC.
Likewise, the Senate Leadership Fund, an outside campaign giant allied with Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), will stay away from Moore, despite Trump’s push.
“We are following the NRSC's lead in Alabama,” a spokesman said.
McConnell, meanwhile, has appeared to concede that there’s little he can do to block Moore from being seated, if he defeats Democrat Doug Jones in next Tuesday’s election. The race is for the open seat formerly held by Jeff Sessions, now Trump’s attorney general.
It’s a sentiment expressed by other leading GOP senators in recent days, despite their discomfort with Moore’s alleged behavior. Moore has denied the women’s allegations and polls show the race is close.
But Senate Republicans could prevent Moore from joining their conference, shutting the former judge out of their almost daily policy luncheons and planning sessions.
It’s a strategy that could cut both ways — distancing the GOP from Moore but also enhancing his status as a Bannon-backed outsider who is challenging the GOP establishment.
Trump decided to endorse Moore after speaking recently with his former advisor, who is the chairman of conservative Breitbart News and is scheduled to headline a rally Tuesday in Fairhope, Ala.
Jones, meanwhile, the former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Ku Klux Klansmen decades later for the infamous 1963 bombing of a black Birmingham church, has tried to capitalize on the disarray by peeling off centrist Republican voters. While he has made inroads, according to polls, it’s an uncertain strategy for a Democrat in the conservative state, and many believe moderate GOP voters may simply stay home or not support either candidate.