HENAGAR, Ala.— Casting his campaign as a "spiritual battle" against "the immorality of our time," Alabama Republican Roy Moore vowed Monday to "take off the gloves" in the final weeks of his Senate race so he can establish a clear contrast with his Democratic opponent.
"I'm a fighter. I don't hesitate to say that. I've been that way my whole life," Moore told more than 100 supporters at his first public event since Nov. 16. "My opponent will allow our Constitution to be totally undermined and disregarded. And I oppose that."
Moore's campaign has been rocked by accusations from local women who have come forward over the past month to say he treated them inappropriately, including a woman who says he touched her sexually when she was 14 and he was 32. Moore, 70, has denied any sexual misconduct, while saying he may have dated teenagers in his 30s.
National Republican leaders, with the exception of President Trump, have dropped support for Moore, with many, including Sen. Richard C. Shelby (Ala.), Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), describing the allegations as credible.
In his remarks Monday, Moore cast the allegations in biblical terms, saying they demonstrated the end-of-time deceptions of ancient prophecy. "In the last days, perilous times shall come," Moore said, quoting from the book of Timothy. "For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection . . . trucebreakers, false accusers."
To calls of "amen" from the crowd, Moore said the allegations were a plot by his political enemies. A new television ad by his campaign that debuted Monday described the accusations as "a scheme by liberal Democrats and the Republican establishment to protect their big-government trough." The ad features pictures of McConnell, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Moore returned repeatedly to the record of his opponent, Doug Jones, reading to the crowd a long passage from a recent interview to argue that the Democrat is out of step with the people of Alabama on judges, abortion, immigration, Obamacare and other issues.
"I oppose transgender rights," Moore said. "I don't believe Christians hate anybody. I don't hate anybody. But I do hate sin."
Bill Armistead, Moore's campaign chairman, said Moore's closing strategy is to refocus the race on the issues and away from the allegations. "He is going to define who he is and what he stands for and what his opponent stands for," Armistead said. "And it's going to be a clear distinction."
Moore took no questions from journalists or members of the audience, and he did not stay after his remarks to shake hands. But attendees, several of whom wore "Make America Great Again" hats, said as they left the event that they were proud to support him.
Chuck Ellis, a state trooper from Albertville, first met Moore in 1982, when Moore interviewed him as part of his application to West Point. "The person I met then is the same person I just heard speak," Ellis said. "My job that I do depends on being able to read folks. I feel that he is being honest."
At times, Moore was unmistakably candid with the crowd. After introducing his family, he made clear that they were tired of the campaign. "There are 14 days left until the general election," Moore said. "We have been ready for the end for a while."