- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 5, 2017

FAIRHOPE, Ala. — A day after President Trump endorsed Roy Moore and the Republican National Committee restored ties with his campaign, the face of the party’s populist wing Stephen K. Bannon parachuted into Alabama to sing Mr. Moore’s praises a week out from a U.S. Senate special election.

A key part of the Trump campaign’s brain trust last year, Mr. Bannon is leading a revolt against the Republican Party establishment and promoting insurgent Republicans who embrace his fiery populism, vow to back the Trump agenda and take the fight to entrenched Washington leaders.

“They want to destroy Judge Roy Moore,” Mr. Bannon said of the entrenched Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Washington. “You know why? They want to take your voice away. This is not about Judge Moore. This is not about Donald Trump. This is about you … 100 percent. They are taking your voice away.”

Shortly after leaving his post as White House chief strategist, Mr. Bannon threw his support behind Mr. Moore in the Republican primary race — putting him on the opposite side of the battle from Mr. Trump and adding a layer of intrigue to the race.

It also put him against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, and aligned groups in Washington that backed Sen. Luther Strange and funneled tens of millions of dollars into the appointed incumbent’s bid to keep the seat.

Mr. Trump campaigned with Mr. Strange in the Republican primary, but things got messy after Mr. Moore won. Weeks before the Dec. 12 general election against Democrat Doug Jones, The Washington Post reported the stories of women who accused Mr. Moore of sexual misconduct when they were in their teens and he was in his 30s.

Mr. Bannon was one of the few high-profile Republicans who stuck with the 70-year-old Christian conservative after the misconduct claims.

Mr. McConnell, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and other Republicans on Capitol Hill called for Mr. Moore to step down, while both the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee withdrew support.

Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, NRSC chairman, said Mr. Moore should be expelled from the Senate if he wins.

Through it all, Mr. Moore has maintained the accusations against him are bogus and cooked up by the “elites” in Washington bent on sinking his campaign and protecting the status quo.

There were signs this week that Republican resistance to his candidacy was crumbling — as had happened with Mr. Trump’s presidential bid in last year.

Mr. Trump officially endorsed Mr. Moore, Mr. McConnell softened his opposition and the RNC announced it was reversing course after cutting ties with the Moore campaign last month.

Mr. Trump has not campaigned with Mr. Moore but is holding a rally Friday in Pensacola, about 20 miles from the Alabama border, that will double as a chance to bolster Mr. Moore.

“I think he’s going to do very well,” Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House. “We don’t want to have a liberal Democrat in Alabama, believe me.”

Mr. Bannon’s visit provided another boost.

“Steve is a master of whipping up the ground troops, and he’s lending his energy to our critical GOTV effort,” said Brett Doster, a Moore campaign adviser. “All momentum is heading in our direction, but we are taking nothing for granted.”

The Real Clear Politics average of polls shows Mr. Moore, who enjoys strong support among evangelical Christian voters, clinging to a 1.5-percentage-point lead over Mr. Jones, who was leading the contest a couple of weeks ago.

On Tuesday, Mr. Bannon mocked the idea that Mr. Jones, a former U.S. attorney appointed by President Clinton, is a good fit for Alabama. He warned that “Doug Jones is the personification of Hillary Clinton’s policies.”

“In the United States Senate, he is going to be a vote for the Clintons,” Mr. Bannon said.

He trashed Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona and Mr. McConnell, accusing them of opposing Mr. Trump and defending the status quo, and slammed “Willard Mitt Romney” over his assertion that electing Mr. Moore would be a “stain” on the nation and “no majority is worth losing our honor, our integrity.”

Mr. Bannon said Mr. Moore served honorably and with integrity in the military while Mr. Romney skirted military service, citing his Mormon religion.

“You hid behind your religion,” Mr. Bannon said.

He added that Mr. Romney’s five sons also avoided service — though, unlike their father, they did not come of age when the U.S. had a military draft.

“Where were the Romneys during the wars?” he said. “Judge Moore has more integrity in his pinky finger.”

Mr. Trump, 71, also came of age during the Vietnam War era and did not serve in the U.S. military. He received a deferment over bone spurs.

Lee Pollitt, 70, and his wife, Jean, made the short trip from nearby Myrtle Grove, Florida, to see Mr. Bannon and said they were happy that Mr. Bannon was trying to send some reinforcements to Mr. Trump in Washington.

“It will get Trump’s agenda through, which is what we all voted for to start with,” Mr. Pollitt said.

Mrs. Pollitt said Washington needs a wake-up call.

“They go up there to make themselves nice padded futures and the rest of us are working our rear ends off. There are a few I’d like to …” Mrs. Pollitt said before making a kick motion with her foot from her foldout chair.

Mr. Bannon has weaponized his Breitbart News website against some of his favorite targets, including Mr. McConnell.

Mr. Bannon is encouraging state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who nearly defeated Sen. Thad Cochran in the 2014 Republican primary, to run against Sen. Roger Wicker in Mississippi and is backing Danny Tarkanian in his bid to upset Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada.

“He is an incredibly powerful person from a standpoint of confidence and charisma, and he has a certain intellect, and he is driven, and that driven nature makes him extremely effective,” Mr. McDaniel told The Washington Times on Tuesday. “So having him on your side is a good thing. It matters.”

Mr. Bannon also has endorsed Kelli Ward, who is running for the Arizona seat being vacated by Mr. Flake, a leading Trump critic.

“A Roy Moore win in Alabama in 2017 will undoubtedly be a shot in the arm for the America First, Drain the Swamp movement in 2018 that Donald Trump so electrified in 2016,” said Noel Fritsch, a conservative campaign consultant.

Moore’s resilience in the face of establishment Republican and Democrat attacks is already forcing the GOP to acquiesce to the reality of Judge Moore’s arrival in D.C., as evidenced both by the RNC returning to Alabama and Mitch’s realization that his $30 million and full-scale PR attacks on Judge Moore won’t choose the next U.S. senator there,” he said.


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