GOP senators pretend Roy Moore doesn’t exist

Silence is complicity.

Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks at a campaign rally. CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks at a campaign rally. CREDIT: AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

On Monday, President Donald Trump endorsed Roy Moore, an accused child molester, for the United States Senate in Alabama’s special election next week.

One day later, despite earlier calls from Republican senators for Moore to step aside, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) prediction that Moore would be expelled from the Senate if he wins, conservatives remained largely silent as Trump, his political machine, and the Republican Party continued to rally behind Moore’s campaign. McConnell himself, in a wild move, reversed course on Tuesday, saying the Senate would have no choice but to seat Moore, should he win.

The Republican National Committee also signaled its support for Moore this week, having previously cut ties with the campaign following the wave of sexual misconduct allegations against him. The national party reportedly began sending money to the Alabama state party on Tuesday, and America First Action, the super PAC run by several former Trump aides, also announced on Monday that it would spend $1.1 million in support of Moore in the last week of the campaign.

The GOP’s senate campaign arm was the lone holdout, stating on Tuesday that its position on Moore had not changed and that it would not support him in the race.

The Twitter accounts of many Republican senators have been quiet about Moore since Trump’s endorsement, focusing instead on the GOP tax bills, Trump’s decision to decimate two national monuments in Utah, and Christmas trees.

One senator stuck to his previous opposition to Moore and another doubled down to support Trump’s endorsement. The remaining Republicans have either deferred to the president or been completely silent.

Sens. John Kennedy (R-LA), Mike Rounds (R-SD), and John Barrasso (R-WY) each dodged questions about the race on Monday, according to IJR, claiming instead that it was the president’s prerogative to back whichever candidates he felt like supporting. The man that Moore defeated in the primary, outgoing Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), also punted when asked how he would be voting, saying he had already “made [his] case against Judge Moore.”

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) refused to answer when he was asked on Tuesday morning whether he agreed with Mitt Romney about Moore (Romney previously tweeted that electing Moore to the Senate would “would be a stain on the GOP and on the nation.”) Heller faces a difficult path to re-election in 2018 and last month called on Moore to drop out of the race. On Tuesday, Heller instead referred reporters to his office for a statement; as of Tuesday afternoon, Heller’s office had not released a new public statement on the matter.

One senator has overtly backed Moore. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said on Monday, when Trump was in Utah, that the allegations against Moore were from “decades ago” and that Trump had no choice but to endorse Moore because he was the only Republican who could win. (Trump is encouraging Hatch to stay on in part to keep Romney from an easy path to the Senate.)

According to IJR, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who would serve with Moore if he wins the election, also told reporters on Monday, “I think the president, like a lot of us, we don’t want to lose that seat.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is the only Republican senator to have tweeted about Moore since Trump’s endorsement. Citing Mitt Romney’s condemnation of Moore on Monday, he wrote, “@MittRomney is right. A Roy Moore victory is no victory for the GOP and the nation.”