She must feel strongly about this as I can’t see much political benefit to commenting. Senate Republicans are on the spot because Moore might soon be their colleague but the safe play for House Republicans like Barbara Comstock is just to mutter “disturbing” and keep walking when reporters ask you about it.
She’s loaded for bear, though. Weinstein, Weiner, Ailes, and … Roy Moore?
Harvey Weinstein, Anthony Weiner, Roger Ailes, Roy Moore… No MOORE… pic.twitter.com/X15JbUs26G
— Barbara Comstock (@BarbaraComstock) November 10, 2017
The antagonism towards Fox News by mentioning Ailes feels especially pointed. Comstock’s a moderate Republican and she’s branding herself with a scarlet “M” here by swiping at not just Moore but the populist right’s favorite news network. And there’s a reason for that: Her district is in Virginia, home of Tuesday’s blue wave. Under normal circumstances it’s a rich purple shade with Democrats enjoying a very slight advantage — but three days ago it was solid blue, splitting 56/43 for Ralph Northam over Ed Gillespie. Presumably that’s what has Comstock eager to throw a punch at Moore. She’s extremely vulnerable next year and eager to show Democrats that she’s not that type of Republican. Because she’s proved she can win in a tough district she’s also been hyped as a potential Senate nominee against Tim Kaine next year, which seems like a thankless task given Tuesday’s results but which would require, at a minimum, putting distance between oneself and Moore-style Republicanism to have any chance at victory. So that’s what Comstock’s doing.
But to get to the general election she needs to survive a primary. She already has one challenger, a, er, colorful character named Shak Hill, who’s following the Corey Stewart populist playbook to the point where he’s retained Stewart’s former campaign manager as a consultant. Today’s broadside against Moore may earn Comstock further challengers along the same lines, sensing an opening in the primary to appeal to Trump-style nationalists to throw the RINO incumbent out. (Of course, the more candidates there are fighting for populist votes, the better Comstock’s chances of squeaking through are.) If she runs for Senate, she’ll have to face Stewart himself in the primary. By this time next week, as surreal as it may seem, “Believe Roy!” is apt to be the newest populist rallying cry to oust establishmentarians like Comstock for partisan treason irrespective of the credibility of the accusers in the WaPo story. This is why I don’t see the advantage to Comstock in commenting at length. Stewart or whichever Stewart knock-off she faces in the House primary will use it as evidence that she “doesn’t fight” or whatever. She’d be better off ducking.
Comstock’s not the only moderate House Republican to unload on Moore, incidentally:
Not my state; not my chamber but this man is despicable and should step down. To call him "unfit" is generous. https://t.co/9ERLrjJ33U
— Carlos Curbelo (@carloslcurbelo) November 10, 2017
Curbelo’s district in Florida is bluer than Comstock’s is. He won his first race for Congress in 2014 by just three points and will be one of the most vulnerable Republicans in the country next fall as the likelihood of a blue wave increases. Looks like piling on Moore will be standard practice for many House GOPers from purple districts, whatever the risk in the primaries. In fact, maybe he and Comstock are calculating that as the risk of a Democratic House takeover rises, the enthusiasm among Steve Bannon and other populists to follow through on primary challenges will diminish. I think they’re kidding themselves about that — it’s easy to make an argument that Bannon would prefer a Democratic House, both on the merits and in the interest of clearing out establishmentarians from the Republican caucus. But if you’re a voter whose top priority is Republican control of the chamber and you’re worried that Speaker Pelosi is a real possibility, probably you’ll pull the lever for incumbents in the primary knowing that they’re your strongest play. RINOs or not.
Update: It’s easy for Moore to spin Comstock’s and Curbelo’s disdain for him. They’re damned RINOs! Spinning this will be much harder:
BREAK: Senator Mike Lee withdraws endorsement of Roy Moore. "Having read the detailed description of the incidents, as well as the response from Judge Moore and his campaign," Lee says, "I can no longer endorse his candidacy for the US Senate."
— Elaina Plott (@elainaplott) November 10, 2017
I asked in a post earlier today if anyone who was pro-Moore as of yesterday morning had turned anti-Moore because of the WaPo story. Yep: None other than Mike Lee. He’s all but saying that he believes the accusers, which leaves Ted Cruz and Rand Paul out on a limb in maintaining their own endorsements of Moore and risks a scenario in which the entire Senate GOP caucus is, at best, indifferent to the outcome in Alabama. Moore’s defenders in conservative media will spend the next month insisting that the accusations against him are bogus yet here’s conservative Mike Lee insisting that they’re credible. That’s a big hit to Moore.
Update: And now Steve Daines abandons ship.
JUST IN: Sen. Daines rescinds his endorsement of Roy Moore:
"I am pulling my endorsement and support for Roy Moore for U.S. Senate."
— NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt (@NBCNightlyNews) November 10, 2017