- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2017

President Trump on Saturday beat back the chief attack on his his candidate in Alabama’s Republican runoff election for U.S. Senate, saying Sen. Luther Strange had proven himself to be his ally in the fight against the Washington establishment.

“I’m telling you because I’ve seen him. He is tough as hell,” Mr. Trump told a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, where he took the unusual step for a sitting president of wading into one of his party’s primary race.

Luther is your man. Luther wants to end business as usual, stop the insider dealing and Luther Strange is determined to drain that swamp,” said the president. “He shares our agenda.”

He attempts to cast Mr. Strange as a pawn of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who for many is the face of the GOP establishment, was a “bum rap.”

The charge that Mr. Strange is too cozy with Mr. McConnell has been one of the most damaging from his rival, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore.

Mr. Moore is running as the true Trump Republican and garnering support from conservative icons such as former Vice President Sarah Palin.

Mr. Strange has been trailing in the polls, and Mr. Trump flew in for a rally to try to save him.

“He’s not a friend of Mitch McConnell. He doesn’t know Mitch McConnell. He just got there,” he said of Mr. Strange, who was appointed to the Senate seats vacated when Sen. Jeff Sessions became attorney general.

Mr. Trump, who likes giving people nicknames, dubbed Mr. Strange, who is 6-foot 9-inches tall, “Big Luther.”

The president acknowledged that he was sticking his neck out in Alabama’s runoff election. He also said that if Mr. Moore wins the runoff Tuesday, he’d return to campaign for him in the general election.

He said Mr. Moore was a good man but that he would have a harder time beating Democrat Doug Jones.

“If this man wins, that race is over,” he said pointing to Mr. Strange. “If somebody else wins, I will tell you, that’s going to be a very tough race.”

Mr. Trump also said that he owed it to Mr. Strange to help him in the primary.

Mr. Trump said that Mr. Strange proved his loyalty during the first push to get a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare through the Senate.

The president recalled how he had list of 10 GOP senators who were no votes and needed to be persuaded to vote yes. He said everyone wanted favors. They wanted dinners with the president for themselves, their wives, their extended family.

“It was brutal,” said Mr. Trump.

But when he called Mr. Strange and asked for his support for the bill, he was surprised by the response.

“He says, ‘You got it,’” said Mr. Trump. “He said, ‘Sir, I was with you from the beginning. I knew you were going to win. And honestly, Mr. Presidetn, if you want my vote, you’ve got it.’”

Mr. Trump said he told First Lady Melania Trump that it was “the coolest thing that happened to me in six month.”

Luther did that for me and I have to remember that,” he said. “We have to be loyal in life.”

He mentioned that a name that was not on the list was Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who cast the deciding vote that derailed the repeal-and-replace bill in July.

Mr. McCain on Friday said he wouldn’t support a new bill to repeal Obamacare, likely doming the last-ditch effort to keep the Republicans promise to replace the health care law.

“When you’re down one or two votes, you can’t quit,” he said.

The president didn’t dwell on the new setback.

“Send Luther Strange to the United States Senate so he can defend your interest, fight for your values and always put America first,” he said. “Go out and get out the vote.”

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