This is Hannity’s position exactly (surprise) and it couldn’t have been any other way. Hannity follows the laws of populist talk radio and so, really, does Trump, whose Twitter feed often reads like a written version of the format. The cardinal rule: Do not cross your audience. A year ago, as a newly elected president who had vanquished the Clintons, Trump might have had enough juice to steer the Republican base to his preferred outcome in Alabama. But he learned a hard lesson from the runoff between Roy Moore and Luther Strange, that even he can’t ride the tiger. Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and others learned that lesson long ago, which is why they’ve bent over backwards to accommodate their own political beliefs to the whims of Trumpism. That’s what the audience wants, so that’s what they’ll get.

Now Trump has learned that lesson too. When a populist is under siege from the left and the Republican establishment and he’s willing to fight, he must be supported no matter what he’s accused of. POTUS benefited from that “ethic” himself last October after the “Access Hollywood” tape broke and now he’s forced to genuflect before it in Moore’s case by refusing to demand he leave the race, instead punting the matter to Alabama voters to decide. The state Republican party issued a statement this afternoon arriving at the same conclusion for the same reasons. They’re terrified of crossing their own constituents, even when predatory behavior by their candidate has been credibly alleged:

“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.”

“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.”

If Trump can’t ride the tiger, they know they can’t either. No one can:

Years of anti-Obama fervor in the Republican Party that energized the grassroots and resulted in insurgents like Sens. Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee being elected to office has now morphed into a different, anti-Washington sentiment so strong that that the Republican Party appears to have lost all control of it. Even calls from conservative stars like Cruz and Lee for Moore to step down are being ignored by the nominee’s supporters, who question the allegations as politically motivated and suspiciously timed…

“This movement is much darker,” said Rick Tyler, a GOP strategist who has worked for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Cruz, of what he’s seeing from Republican activists today compared to the height of the tea party movement…

“What’s needed is that someone needs to be able to explain to the country what a Republican agenda means today so that you build a not 30% coalition but closer to a 60% coalition. The party has to stand for something, because if it stands for nothing then what’s winning worth?” he said.

“What’s winning worth”? Winning keeps the Democrats out of power. In the end that was the only reason to support Trump last year, it’s the only reason to support Moore now, and it’ll be the ultimate reason offered again and again to justify supporting badly damaged Republican candidates, both populist and establishment, going forward. The party’s lost its capacity for quality control because it’s accepted the idea that every election will be a “Flight 93 election” going forward. When you’ve got to get into the cockpit to stop a kamikaze mission, it doesn’t matter how many 16-year-olds your candidate has assaulted. All that matters is getting into the cockpit. If he can help do that, hey.

But maybe that’ll change. The generic ballot numbers for Republicans right now are gruesome. If a blue wave crashes next fall, it’s hard to predict how the GOP as an institution will react. Populists will say the answer is more populist candidates, establishmentarians will say the answer is fewer, but where does the balance of the party go? Here’s Sanders punting on Moore on behalf of Trump followed by James Rosen of Fox News, of all places, pressing her with a good question. If she’s “troubled” by the allegations against Moore, is she troubled by the allegations against Trump?