GOP figures are coming out against Roy Moore, but it’s too little, too late

With the election looming, criticisms of the embattled Republican candidate ring hollow.

Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." (CREDIT: MSNBC)
Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." (CREDIT: MSNBC)

A growing number of powerful Republicans have begun to speak out against U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore in the days leading up to the Alabama special election for Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ vacant seat. Unfortunately, with the polls opening in less than 24 hours — and Moore seemingly in the lead despite allegations of child abuse — their calls may have come too late.

On Monday, Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) and Nebraska Republican National Committeewoman Joyce Simmons both made it known that they were unhappy with their party’s decision to back Moore, who has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least eight women, several of whom say they were teenagers when Moore, then in his 30s, first approached them.

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“I think Roy Moore is an abomination to the Republican Party. …The American people deserve better,”  Hurd said during an interview on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

Echoing that anger, Simmons lashed out at national RNC leaders in an email to her colleagues on Monday, condemning the organization’s decision to continue funding Moore’s campaign amid the misconduct allegations. “I strongly disagree with the recent RNC financial support directed to the Alabama Republican Party for use in the Roy Moore race,” she wrote. According to Politico, Simmons submitted her resignation to RNC chair Ronna McDaniel on Friday.

Monday’s comments followed an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday, in which senior Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby (R) admitted that he had not voted for Moore in the state’s special election. Instead, he said, he had opted to cast his early ballot for an unnamed write-in.

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I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I didn’t vote for Roy Moore,” he said. “But I wrote in a distinguished Republican name. And I think a lot of people could do that.”

He added, “There’s a time — we call it a tipping point — and I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip, when it got to the 14-year-old’s story… that was enough for me. I said, I can’t vote for Roy Moore.”

Those declarations may ultimately prove to be a case of “too little, too late.”

After experiencing a drop in the polls initially, following the first round of allegations against him in early November, Moore rallied quickly, buoyed by anti-abortion activists, and later gaining steam from a host of high-profile endorsements — including Trump’s. As of Monday, one day before the special election, the race between Moore and his Democratic opponent Doug Jones was effectively a toss-up: Despite a number of outlier polls claiming otherwise, a RealClearPolitics aggregate put Moore ahead by approximately 2.2 percentage points.

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Even prior to Trump’s ill-advised decision to formally endorse — and then campaign for — an accused child molester earlier in December, the Alabama GOP had already voiced its support for Moore, stating publicly that Moore “deserve[d] to be presumed innocent of the accusations unless proven otherwise.”

“Judge Moore has vehemently denied the allegations made against him,” state party chair Terry Lathan said. “…He will continue to take his case straight to the people of Alabama.”

Republican party leaders across the board followed suit. On December 3, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) — who previously called for Moore to suspend his campaign — hedged his earlier comments, stating in an interview with ABC’s This Week that he would “let the people of Alabama decide, a week from Tuesday, who they want to send to the Senate.” He added that he would “address the matter appropriately” afterward.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey has also flippantly ignored the serious allegations against Moore, stating in November that she would still vote for him, despite also saying that she had “no reason to disbelieve” his accusers.

“I believe in the Republican Party, what we stand for,” Ivey said. “And most important, we need to have a Republican in the United States Senate to vote on the things like Supreme Court justices.”

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Notwithstanding figures like Shelby, who has been vehemently anti-Moore for weeks, and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who recently reiterated his desire for Moore to drop out of the race, more recent Republican criticism of Moore appears to be the exception rather than the rule. Overall, the GOP has largely chosen to stand by and financially back an accused sexual predator, giving Moore — who continues to vigorously deny the allegations against him — credibility in voters’ eyes.

While it’s unclear whether or not a uniform call for Moore to step aside would have ultimately changed anything, it’s worth considering the weight that condemnations from elected officials actually carry. Would increased pressure from top-ranking Republicans have halted Moore in his tracks?

On Tuesday, citizens across the country may finally get their answer.