Political News

National Republicans can't get rid of Roy Moore

Posted November 17, 2017 5:57 p.m. EST

— National Republicans are increasingly resigned to what they see as a grim reality in Alabama: They're stuck with Roy Moore.

After eight days of a Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell-led search for ways to get him out of an election that's just three weeks away, every option the GOP has considered now appears to be stymied.

The state's Republican governor, Kay Ivey, said Friday that she won't move the December 12 date of the special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions' former Senate seat and will vote for Moore. The Alabama Republican Party has also thrown its support behind Moore.

No last-ditch write-in bid is in the works, either -- nor does such a Hail Mary attempt appear viable. Pollsters for the Senate Republicans' campaign arm concluded this week that even Sessions couldn't win as a write-in candidate.

President Donald Trump's White House is showing no appetite to wade in and pressure Moore to exit the race or Ivey to move the election.

And Moore has grown more defiant -- with his wife on Friday insisting there's no way he will drop out of the race.

"It looks pretty bleak," said one GOP aide who asked for anonymity to frankly discuss the race. "Unless, by divine intervention, Roy Moore wakes up and decides he shouldn't do this, this is what we're going to be stuck with."

Now, the question is whether anything in the race's closing weeks can change Moore's mind.

An eighth accuser came forward Friday. Tina Johnson, who lives in Gadsden, Alabama, said that when she was 28 years old in 1991, Moore grabbed her buttocks while she was in his law office. Moore's campaign has not responded to CNN's requests for comment on Johnson's accusation.

Also important to watch: whether Moore's apparent dip in the polls lasts.

Trump was damaged in 2016 by the "Access Hollywood" tape in which he described kissing women and grabbing their privates without permission, and by 16 women accusing him of sexual misconduct. But he rebounded by Election Day after chalking up those remarks as "locker-room talk" and insisting the 16 women were lying.

Moore has taken a similar approach, denying the allegations against him. In recent days, he has refused to take reporters' questions, but his campaign has pointed to a press conference held by Moore's socially conservative allies who rallied to his side.

With Moore remaining the only GOP candidate in the race, there are no good outcomes for national Republicans. If a recent Fox News poll is accurate and he trails Democrat Doug Jones by 8 percentage points, a loss would trim the Republican majority to just 51 votes. If Moore hangs on to win, Senate leadership would be faced with a decision on whether to expel him from the body -- a move that could set off backlash from the party's base -- or keep him, which is also politically perilous due to Moore's history of bombastic remarks, such as saying that homosexuality should be illegal and Muslims shouldn't be allowed in Congress.

McConnell's camp on Wednesday delivered a memo to the White House laying out options to avoid a Moore versus Jones election on December 12, a top McConnell political adviser said.

But with Ivey's insistence that the election date won't move, the state party's support for Moore and other Alabama Republicans' unwillingness to run as write-in candidates, none of those options are viable.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Friday that Trump finds the allegations against Moore "extremely troubling" but won't intervene in the election.

"He feels like it's up to the governor and the state, the people in the state of Alabama, to make a determination on whether or not they delay that election or whether or not they support and vote for Roy Moore," Sanders said.

The only Alabama Republicans who have refused to support Moore are Sen. Richard Shelby and the Greater Birmingham Young Republicans, which voted Thursday to pull its endorsement of Moore.

Alabama Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne said Thursday that he'll vote for Moore and believes the state's voters should decide how to weigh the accusations against the candidate.

"The people of Alabama can make up their minds about this," Byrne said. "They don't need politicians in Washington, the national news media, telling them what to do."