NRSC chief Cory Gardner: "Roy Moore will never have the support of [this] committee"

Too bad Gardner’s from a battleground state. If he wasn’t we’d have a better idea of whether it’s political calculation that’s driving this or if he really finds Moore this objectionable on the merits.

The other possibility is that he’s worried Republican candidates endorsed by the NRSC will be saddled with Moore’s baggage if the committee endorses Moore too. But that doesn’t add up. Moore will be used against the party in the midterms no matter what the NRSC does. The president and the RNC have both endorsed him, for fark’s sake.

“Roy Moore will never have the support of the senatorial committee. We will never endorse him. We won’t support him,” Colorado senator Cory Gardner told THE WEEKLY STANDARD. “I won’t let that happen. Nothing will change. I stand by my previous statement.”…

Asked about the president’s endorsement, Gardner said: “We’ve taken a different position. I think our position is right.”

We’re five days out from a major statewide election. The president is all-in on the Republican nominee, the NRSC says never. That’s a fair microcosm of the GOP right now. Meanwhile, Rich Lowry asks a question I asked repeatedly during the primary runoff. What does Moore give populists that a more establishment candidate wouldn’t have? I could understand preferring him if his primary opponent was a Flake-style anti-Trumper but Luther Strange was a rubber stamp for Trump’s agenda, sufficiently so that POTUS himself endorsed him. What’s the advantage to having Moore, who’s underperforming the average Republican in this election by around 25 points, as nominee instead?

The urgency to get the party to back Moore-type candidates isn’t immediately apparent. If the point is just to hold Republican Senate seats, safer, more conventional Republicans are better suited to the task. If the point is just to support the Trump agenda, safer, more conventional candidates are as reliable, and perhaps more reliable than the likes of Moore, who opposed the Graham-Cassidy health care bill (“Rand Paul praises Roy Moore for opposing Obamacare repeal effort” is how one headline put it at the time).

Part of the point has to be to elect candidates who have no standards for the sake of it. Bannon may be thinking ahead to a time when the Trump sex allegations become a live issue again or when a true scandal emerges from the Robert Mueller investigation. In this scenario, will there be anyone more naturally inclined to be dismissive of the accusers or other evidence than former Judge Roy Moore?

Moore would make obvious sense as a Bannon guy if he was an anti-trade warrior whose core plank was a nationalist economic agenda, but that’s not his bread and butter. “Values” are, and neither Trump nor Bannon seems to have any real interest in social conservatism apart from its utility in keeping socially conservative voters inside the tent of a Trumpifying GOP.

One does get the vibe from Bannon’s stump speeches that having “no standards for the sake of it” is part of the plan, that any sort of moral or ethical red line that makes life difficult for a populist is necessarily an establishment plot. Case in point: You’re telling me Alabama Republicans can’t do better than this?

In response to a question from one of the only African Americans in the audience — who asked when Moore thought America was last “great” — Moore acknowledged the nation’s history of racial divisions, but said: “I think it was great at the time when families were united — even though we had slavery — they cared for one another…. Our families were strong, our country had a direction.”

A liberal couldn’t draw a caricature of a Republican broader than Moore. I think Lowry’s wrong about Bannon’s strategy, though. It has nothing to do with locking up a reliable Senate vote to protect Trump from scandal; Strange probably would have been as reliable as Moore will be on that, as Alabama’s heavy Republican lean all but requires it. Bannon feels obliged to go all-in on Moore, I assume, because he knows that many of the insurgent populists he’s backing in the primaries are apt to be attacked for various outre beliefs they hold and he’s eager to neutralize that by making Moore’s candidacy a litmus test. For instance, Paul Nehlen, Breitbart’s knight in shining armor against Paul Ryan in last year’s congressional primary, has tweeted or retweeted various crankish things over the last few months and told John Podhoretz last night to “eat a bullet” when Podhoretz criticized him. Bannon wants to move the Overton window so that Birtherism or believing in Pizzagate or thinking that homosexuality should be illegal, etc, isn’t necessarily disqualifying in a Republican primary because some of his candidates are going to hold beliefs like that and he knows it. In that sense, Moore’s scandal over teenaged girls is almost a plus in that, if Moore wins anyway, his example can be cited later as proof that stuff that bothers “the elites” doesn’t — and more importantly, shouldn’t — bother “the people.” Sins are practically a virtue, an act of rebellion against the establishment.

Or, as Lowry puts it, “Bannon may also believe that a GOP with a highly attuned ethical sense can’t truly be the party of the working class. In which case, who is the one who has contempt for the ‘rubes’?”

There are no new polls of the Alabama race out today as I write this at 5 p.m. ET but read this dissection by Harry Enten and you’ll see why it’s pointless for me or anyone else to try to decipher them in the first place. Historically Senate polling has been garbage and polling for Senate special elections in particular has been flaming garbage. The *average* polling error in Senate races, notes Enten, is larger than the roughly three-point advantage Moore currently enjoys. That’s his way of telling you that pretty much any outcome on Tuesday night wouldn’t be out of line with the polling right now — a Moore landslide, a close Moore win, a comfortable Jones win. The election is practically a black box.