Judge Roy Moore has won the Republican nomination for the US Senate seat in Alabama vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions Moore, backed by rock-ribbed conservatives and populists, scored a sizable victory in Tuesday’s primary over Luther Strange, who had been appointed to the position when Sessions left for the US Justice Department in January.
Moore finished with 55% of the vote to 45% for Strange. This represents a victory for the grassroots and a repudiation of the establishment, though Strange had the backing of both Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Trump.
Moore will now enter the general election race as a heavy favorite against Democrat Doug Jones.
If ever there was a Senate candidate who embodies the principles of Donald Trump and his coalition, it would seem to be the rebellious Judge Roy Moore of Alabama. And if ever there was a candidate who represents the DC swamp Trump is trying to drain, it is Moore’s opponent, Luther Strange.
And yet, Trump not only endorsed Strange, but flew to Alabama late last week to lead a rally for him. Go figure. It was the same rally where the president delivered his now-infamous shot across the bow at the NFL.
The strangeness of it all was amplified on Monday night, election eve, when two of the world’s most pro-Trump heavyweights, Former Trump Senior Adviser Steve Bannon and Brexit leader Nigel Farage, flew in for a rally in support of Judge Moore, while Vice President Pence stumped for Strange. As NBC News headlined it, Dueling Alabama GOP Primary Rallies Pit Trump Supporters Versus Trump-Supported Candidate. Of course, Mr. Farage will cross the pond again in two weeks to speak at a special event in Washington presented by Liberty Nation.
Trump’s support of Mitch McConnell’s candidate instead of Steve Bannon’s could be explained away if Strange were likely to win. But in reality, he’ll probably lose. And that makes Trump’s embrace of Strange even more inexplicable. The only credible explanation is that Trump cut some deal with the Senate Majority Leader. But given how little McConnell has delivered – healthcare reform is on life support, and tax reform efforts have moved at the speed of a car stuck in the mud – one wonders what Trump believes he will actually receive in return for defying his base and backing Strange.
This primary in Alabama will determine the GOP candidate to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and the winner will be a prohibitive favorite to defeat Democrat Doug Jones in November’s general election.
Millions of dollars have flowed into Alabama from outside the state in support of Luther Strange, much of it used on attacks ads against Moore. But Moore, like Trump, is hardly one to back down. The two-time Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court installed a Ten Commandments monument in the rotunda of the Alabama Judicial Building in the dark of night in 2001 and was removed from the bench two years later for refusing to take it down. Moore won a second term as Chief Justice in 2012, but in 2016 he wouldn’t accept the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage and was suspended from the bench while charges against him are pending. On Monday evening, Moore pulled a gun out of his pocket at a rally to demonstrate that, unlike the claims of the negative ads, he is indeed a supporter of the second amendment.
Luther Strange, on the other hand, is a former Alabama Attorney General and career politician appointed to replace Sessions by Governor Robert Bentley, who resigned from office in April of this year following a sex scandal.