Republican efforts to force Roy Moore out of Alabama’s Senate race appeared to fizzle on Thursday, as the state party reaffirmed its commitment to the embattled nominee.
“The ALGOP Steering Committee supports Judge Roy Moore as our nominee and trusts the voters as they make the ultimate decision in this crucial race,” said state party chair Terry Lathan in a statement. “Judge Moore has vehemently denied the allegations made against him. He deserves to be presumed innocent of the accusations unless proven otherwise. He will continue to take his case straight to the people of Alabama.”
Latham and the rest of the 21-member steering committee had met Wednesday evening for nearly three hours, leaving their room at an Embassy Suites in Hoover, Ala., without saying anything to reporters. The committee, in theory, had the power to denounce Moore and invalidate any votes cast for him in the Dec. 12 election, a dramatic move that some Republicans had hoped would allow them to support a write-in candidate.
Instead, by continuing to back Moore, the party appeared to close the GOP’s last off-ramp out of the Alabama crisis. Since Nov. 9, when The Washington Post first reported on women who accused Moore of sexual assault or unwanted advances when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, Republicans have discussed rejecting Moore’s candidacy, persuading him to quit the race, running a write-in candidate, delaying the election, or canceling the election altogether by persuading Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.) to resign.
In a scrum with reporters Thursday, Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) said he disagreed with the state party — which had not yet released its statement but was expected to back Moore — and that the “Hail Mary” attempts at blocking him would not work.
“If [Gov. Kay Ivey] appointed somebody, it would be just until the special election,” Shelby said. “I talked to the governor, and the law is very clear but kind of tight. If Roy Moore wins, he’d come up here, and he’d be seated, I guess, under the law. And we’d see if we keep him or not.”
At a Thursday “press conference” in Alabama, where he was defended by conservative religious leaders and took no questions, Moore once again condemned the media for reporting on allegations against him.
And a Fox News poll released Thursday evening found Democrat Doug Jones, for the first time, leaping ahead of the Republican in a ballot test. Jones led Moore by 8 points in the poll, as 54 percent of voters said that Moore should quit the race.
The poll had more bad news for Republicans attempting to oust Moore or persuade Strange to run as a write-in candidate. Asked who they would support in a race between Jones and Strange, the Democrat led by 10 points, 48-38, over the appointed senator.