- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 12, 2017

A tide of Republicans are distancing themselves from Roy Moore, the GOP nominee for the Senate in Alabama, or urging him to drop out of the race without delay, saying they’re unswayed by his rebuttal to claims that he pursued relationships with teen girls during his 30s.

Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Steve Daines of Montana withdrew their endorsements, while others said they’ve weighed the former judge’s denials against accusations from multiple women — and sided with the latter.

“I think the accusations have more credibility than the denial. I think it would be best if Roy would just step aside,” Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

Mr. Moore has refused to drop out ahead of a December showdown against Democrat Doug Jones, a former prosecutor. They are vying for the Senate seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Mr. Toomey said one option for the GOP, if there is one, might be to launch a write-in campaign to install another candidate, such as interim Sen. Luther Strange, who occupies the seat but lost the primary to Mr. Moore.

“A write-in is very difficult, let’s face it. So there’s no easy solution to this,” Mr. Toomey said.

The red-state election should have been an easy one for Republicans. Yet The Washington Post reported that a woman says Mr. Moore initiated a sexual encounter in 1979, when she was 14 and he was 32. Three other women told the newspaper that Mr. Moore pursued them when they were 16 to 18 years of age.

In a Friday interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, Mr. Moore said he never acted inappropriately and flatly denied allegations related to the 14-year-old. He said outside forces are trying to derail his campaign.

Asked if he had ever dated any teenagers when he was in his 30s, Mr. Moore said, “Not generally, no.”

“If I did, you know, I’m not going to dispute anything, but I don’t remember anything like that,” he said, adding that he didn’t “remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the White House said Mr. Moore should drop out if there’s truth to the claims, though it is unclear what kind of investigation can or will occur.

“It appears there is a significant issue here that needs to be addressed,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Prominent Republicans, however, say Mr. Moore’s rebuttal has fallen short and it’s time to dump him.

Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, said “innocent until proven guilty” is the standard for criminal convictions, not elections.

“I believe Leigh Corfman. Her account is too serious to ignore,” Mr. Romney tweeted, referring to Mr. Moore’s main accuser. “Moore is unfit for office and should step aside.”

The national GOP establishment — including President Trump — had fought Mr. Moore’s nomination, backing other candidates in the primary and runoff. But some conservative activists had rallied to the former state chief judge, arguing he was the most Trump-like candidate in the race.

Some Republicans balking at his candidacy said they never bought into his brash style.

“Look, I’m sorry, but even before these reports surfaced, Roy Moore’s nomination was a bridge too far,” tweeted Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican.

Pundits have suggested that GOP leaders should refuse to seat Mr. Moore, if elected, raising another set of thorny questions for his would-be colleagues.

“We’ll have to wrestle with that if and when the time comes. There’s a lot that has to happen before that,” Mr. Toomey said.

Democrats on Sunday suggested a more direct path — just vote for their guy.

“There’s an alternative candidate in Doug Jones — former U.S. attorney, great prosecutor, someone who’s running on trust with the voters and, also, health care in Alabama and the real issues that are going to affect the people of that state,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Democrats are employing a double standard, some critics say, after fighting President Clinton’s impeachment related to sexual acts with a White House intern and the associated fallout in the late 1990s.

Party bigwigs also have refused to say whether Sen. Robert Menendez, who is facing corruption charges in New Jersey, should step down before a Democratic governor is seated in January.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez all declined Sunday to say whether Mr. Menendez should resign if he’s found guilty.

They said the jury hasn’t spoken, so they don’t want to weigh in.

“People on the jury will look at the facts, just like people in Alabama will have to look at the facts and they’ll have to render a decision,” Mr. Van Hollen told “Fox News Sunday.”

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