"You’ve got to go": How the GOP persuaded Trump to campaign in Alabama

“It’s important to have both [Trump and Pence] send a strong message,” said Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.), chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. “It’s an environment question. If you’re trying to read the tea leaves going forward, every race adds a leaf.”

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, who has tried to control what information Trump receives about the Alabama race, was initially wary of the president appearing with a senator who might lose. He preferred Trump spend his time on policy initiatives such as tax reform rather than rousing crowds at political rallies. Likewise, Bill Stepien, the White House political director, urged caution and at first recommended that Trump stay out of the state, administration officials said.

Senate Republicans, however, were unwilling to let the president turn his attention elsewhere. A Strange defeat, they worried, could prompt some GOP senators to retire to avoid facing the wrath of anti-establishment voters and the likes of Bannon’s Breitbart News.