With time running out to catch front-runner Jeff Sessions in the Republicans race for U.S. Senate in Alabama, a trailing GOP candidate jabbed him for getting fired by President Trump.
In television ads run by Rep. Bradley Byrne, whom most polls show in third place heading toward the GOP primary March 3, an actor playing Mr. Sessions is summarily sacked by a three-person panel that chides his performance as Mr. Trump’s first attorney general.
“He let the president down and got fired,” a woman says, as a rumpled man in a fake MAGA hat stands before the tribunal.
“And Hillary still ain’t in jail,” a man sighs before Mr. Sessions’ imaginary file is stamped, “fired.”
Driving a wedge between Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump has become a reoccurring theme in the race.
Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, another Republican vying to take on incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, also hit Mr. Sessions for his fallout with the president.
Mr. Tuberville told an Alabama radio audience that Mr. Sessions let Mr. Trump down by recusing himself from the Russia collusion probe that bedeviled the president for much of his first term, which echoes criticism leveled by Mr. Trump.
“If Jeff Sessions had done the right thing, this might not be a problem as it is today,” Mr. Tuberville said. “Man, we have opened up a can of worms. I feel bad for the president.”
Mr. Byrne and Mr. Tuberville are mired in a close race to see who will oppose Mr. Sessions in a likely Republican runoff to be held on March 31.
Rather than ignore attacks as front-runners often do, Mr. Sessions bristled at the insults and called the tactics “sleazy.”
“Both Tuberville and Byrne have quit on themselves and their campaigns. Neither can connect with voters on the merits of their ideas. It is sad to see them both descend to such a sleazy low point,” Mr. Sessions said in a statement.
Mr. Sessions held the Alabama Senate seat for 20 years before giving it up to take his dream job of attorney general under Mr. Trump.
The Republican race is regarded by most Alabamians as the most important, given the winner will take on Mr. Jones, who is ranked as the most vulnerable senator incumbents in 2020. Mr. Jones won the seat in a 2017 special election to replace Mr. Sessions and has since cast several votes, most recently in favor of Mr. Trump’s impeachment, that angered conservatives.
In a Mason-Dixon poll released last week, all three Republican candidates beat Mr. Jones in hypothetical head-to-head matchups.
Mr. Byrne and Mr. Tuberville began trading bards over the weekend on immigration. Mr. Sessions has long been considered a hard-liner on that topic, and he has stressed that point during this campaign.
Mr. Tuberville insisting he is as staunchly opposed to illegal immigration and fully supports Mr. Trump’s border wall, tying himself, as the GOP candidates do, to the popular Mr. Trump.
Mr. Byrne said it was absurd to accuse him of slinging arrows in the closing weeks when he has already been under assault from an advertising campaign by what he dubbed “the D.C., anti-Trump Club for Growth.
“That group has been a proxy doing the dirty work for Tuberville,” said Byrne campaign spokesman Seth Morrow. “Voters need to know that Tuberville supports amnesty and that Jeff Sessions was fired by President Trump. “
Immigration has long been a hot topic in Alabama, whose legislature in 2011 approved what soft-borders groups consider the nation’s harshest anti-immigration law. Roughly 12 percent of the state’s workforce in the agricultural and construction sectors has a large immigrant component, the American Immigration Council reported in 2017.