- - Sunday, June 2, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The Republicans really, really don’t want Roy Moore to run again for the U.S. Senate. He might be the only politician in Alabama more unpopular than Doug Jones, the Democratic incumbent, but he could scramble a primary and might open a way for Mr. Jones to win another term. Republicans know they have to be careful in dealing with Roy Moore. Voters don’t like it when outsiders meddle, even if they’re friendly outsiders.

The Republicans are counting on defeating Doug Jones and retrieving the seat in deep-red Alabama. It’s crucial to keeping their fragile control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans currently hold 53 seats and the Democrats control 47, though two of those 47 senators say they’re independents, but nearly always vote with Democrats.

Donald Trump has tried killing Mr. Moore with kindness while telling him firmly that he must not make himself a gift to the Democrats. Writing on Twitter, the president said “Republicans cannot allow themselves to again lose the Senate seat in the Great State of Alabama. This time it will be for Six Years, not just Two. I have NOTHING [capital letters his] against Roy Moore, and unlike many other Republican leaders, wanted him to win [in 2018]. But he didn’t, and probably won’t [this time].” A little sugar to make the medicine go down.

Mr. Trump alluded to the fact that Roy Moore lost what would have been an easily won Senate race for any other Republican in 2017. Mr. Moore has a florid history — he was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court twice for refusing to honor a federal order. That would have been survivable in blood-red Alabama, where federal orders have never been popular. There was even a war about federal orders.

Mr. Moore was on the way to win a U.S. Senate race two years ago when, in the flowering of the #MeToo movement, two women said Mr. Moore had behaved inappropriately with them 40 years earlier. Mr. Moore denied it, calling it “fake news.” But unlike the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh, many people in Alabama thought the accusations against Mr. Moore sounded credible. He lost to Doug Jones in a race to fill the term of Jeff Sessions, who had resigned to become the U.S. attorney general.



Mr. Moore has so far only hinted that he may run again, and may be only testing the water. He has a hard core of support that would make him a formidable candidate, though not of sufficient size to make him a favorite. He answered President Trump defiantly. “The president doesn’t control who votes for the United States Senate in Alabama,” he told Politico, the Washington daily. “People in Alabama are smarter than that. They elect the senator from Alabama, not from Washington, D.C.”

The president’s tweet urging Mr. Moore to stay out of the race was widely praised by Republicans in Alabama, who say the president, who is popular in the state, is uniquely capable of chipping away at Mr. Moore’s support. “I didn’t think Roy Moore could win a primary before the president weighed in,” says Josh Holmes, a top adviser to Sen. Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Republicans in the U.S. Senate, “and I know he can’t win one after the president weighed in.”

But it’s Mr. Moore’s ability to scramble a primary and set up an upset that worries the Republicans. The party has no shortage of candidates who would likely defeat Sen. Jones. Three of them are U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, already in the race with $2 million in the bank, state Rep. Arnold Mooney and Tommy Tuberville, the former successful head football coach at Auburn University.

“We believe most Alabama Republicans realize that nominating Roy Moore would be gift-wrapping this Senate seat for Chuck Schumer,” says Steven Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee closely aligned with the majority leader. That’s likely the argument clincher. Chuck Schumer doesn’t have many friends in Alabama.

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