I think he’s running. Not because he’s said so — he’s noncommittal, per Richard Shelby — but because American politics is a television show now whose day-to-day developments are driven by drama. What would be the most dramatic thing that could happen in the Alabama race? Off the top of my head, it would be Roy Moore announcing his candidacy (which may come as soon as tomorrow), surging to an unexpectedly large lead in the primary, and forcing a desperate GOP to scramble to find someone who can beat him.
And who’s the likeliest candidate to do that? Why, former Trump advisor turned enemy Jeff Sessions, who abandoned the Senate to join the administration as AG only to be smacked publicly every day by the president for doing the ethical thing and recusing himself from Russiagate. Subplot one: Can a reluctant Sessions be talked into saving the seat for a party that treated him so badly?
Subplot two: Can Trump be persuaded to put aside his hatred and back Sessions if the alternative is another Senate nomination for Roy Moore?
It’d be the cheesiest of political melodrama, worthy of “House of Cards,” so of course it’s going to happen. Then, in the exciting season finale, newly elected Sen. Sessions will become the 67th vote for removal in the Senate after Democrats impeach Trump. What a twist.
“Sessions I don’t think has ruled it out,” Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) told reporters. “I’ve talked to him about it. I think if he ran he would be a formidable candidate, formidable. I’ve not encouraged him to run, but he’s a friend, and if he ran I think he’d probably clear the field.”…
Shelby said Wednesday that he would not support Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, for the Senate seat.
“There are a lot reasons known to you and everybody else,” Shelby said. “I think Alabama could do better. I think he would be a disrupter. I think we can win that seat back as the Republicans, but I won’t supporting him.”
Shelby suggested it would be difficult to beat Jones next year if Moore in the GOP nominee.
Eh, I don’t know that it’d be “difficult” to beat Jones even with Moore as nominee since Trump will be at the top of the ballot. It’d be more difficult than it would be with any other Republican, especially Sessions. I don’t think Sessions running would “clear the field” either. Certainly Moore would hang in there and try to turn the primary into a referendum on Russiagate, which would make things awkward for Trump. Would he endorse Sessions purely in the interest of flipping Doug Jones’s seat? Or would he stay neutral because his animosity towards Sessions allows him no other option?
If he did stay neutral, how much traction might Moore get from Russiagate in the primary? Not much, I’d bet. Sessions would likely win easily, partly out of residual goodwill from his years in the Senate, partly out of sympathy for how he was treated as AG. Even Trump endorsing Moore might not be enough to stop him. Trump endorsed Luther Strange over Moore in the 2017 runoff, remember, and Alabama Republicans nominated Moore anyway. This time, knowing that Moore’s lost once already to Jones, voters might lunge at the chance to nominate a sure winner like Sessions whether Trump likes it or not.
In fact, precisely because Sessions would be so hard to beat, Trump probably wouldn’t oppose him — and might even support him. POTUS loves to be seen as being on the side of winners. If he’s convinced that Sessions is unbeatable, he’ll endorse him grudgingly purely in the interest of taking some credit for his victory afterward.
Exit question: How long has Sessions been thinking about challenging Jones? Here’s a story from Politico published last November, just days after he was fired as AG, claiming that he was thinking about it. Maybe he’s been holding back, waiting for Moore to declare in the expectation that that’ll throw a scare into the GOP and make them more amenable to him riding to the rescue.