“Go get ’em, Roy”: Is Trump going to Alabama to campaign for Moore?
He’s going *near* Alabama, holding a rally in Pensacola, Florida, on December 8th, but there are as yet no plans for him to cross the border and make the pitch for Moore to Alabamians directly. Until this morning that made sense. Trump was trying to have it both ways, denouncing Democrat Doug Jones and insisting that a 49th Democratic vote in the Senate would endanger the Republican agenda but otherwise keeping mum on Moore and the allegations against him. By opposing Jones but not quite embracing Moore he was leaving himself space to spin any outcome in Alabama. If Moore won, Trump could take credit by saying it was his attacks on Jones that made a difference. If Jones won, Trump could claim that Moore was badly damaged by scandal and that’s why he never felt comfortable endorsing him.
But all of that’s out the window now. He’s all-in.
Now he’s set himself up for a lose/lose proposition. If Jones wins, it means Trump’s endorsement meant nothing to Alabama voters for the second time in five months. He endorsed Luther Strange in the runoff and Moore won decisively. He endorsed Moore in the general election and Alabama went with a Democrat, a shocking upset given the narrow margin in the Senate. It’d be an egregious humiliation for the White House no matter how hard Trump tries to blame everything on Moore afterward. If Moore wins, Trump’s base will exult but most of the country will be barfing at the spectacle of one guy who won office after being accused of sexual assault high-fiving another guy in the same position after his glorious victory. Moore’s baggage will weigh down the GOP all next year; there may yet be more accusers from his past. Trump’s already in the mid-30s in national job approval ratings, which is a fancy way of saying that the one-third of the country that constitutes his base is the *only* segment that’s happy with him right now. How much happier will the other two-thirds be when he’s celebrating Roy Moore’s victory?
If he’s going all-in, though, he might as well really go all-in by switching the Pensacola rally to Mobile. If Moore loses a tight race his camp will grumble to reporters that Trump’s refusal to make a personal appearance was the difference, however far-fetched that may be. And Trump will get zero credit from Moore’s critics for refusing to campaign for him in the state now that he’s endorsed him in every other possible way. As for why he’s decided to hug Moore now after keeping his distance over the past month, the most likely reason is Moore’s improving polls: Trump’s fine with boosting a likely winner who’s been accused of child molestation but he’s deeply allergic to losers, particularly after he got burned by his Strange endorsement. Moore is the likely winner in Alabama, and besides, there have been no new accusations recently. The scandal storm has (probably) passed. Even McConnell is sufficiently sanguine about the outcome that he’s backed off his opposition to Moore. If there’s good news on the way for the GOP soon, Trump wants to latch on belatedly so that he can claim credit for it. (He and Steve Bannon, who hopped aboard the Moore train after Moore was already ahead in primary polls, are similar that way.)
But I don’t know. It may be more than polls. He may sense a kindred spirit in Moore as a candidate who faced credible accusations of sexual misconduct at the eleventh hour in his race, stuck it out when much of the rest of the party was hollering at him to quit, and triumphed over the doubters in the end. Thus are kakistrocracies made.
I hope he keeps the rally in Pensacola just because it’d be funny to watch Trump claim after a Moore loss that he “knew all along” that Moore was damaged goods and that’s why he couldn’t bring himself to go to Alabama. In lieu of an exit question, a fun fact via Nate Silver: The average Republican wins elections in Alabama by no less than 29.6 points. Moore was running about 10 points ahead of Doug Jones before the scandal broke and he’s running about four or five points ahead now. The GOP squandered 25 points of advantage by nominating him and is now facing a possible, if unlikely, turnover. It takes an awfully bad candidate to make the deep south competitive, but darn it, we found him.
Here’s Moore complaining that “immorality has sunken to a new low.” Boy, has it ever.