President Donald Trump, speaking Friday at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, for Luther Strange – his choice to take Jeff Sessions’s former seat in the U.S. Senate – acknowledged that populist elements of his coalition may not go along with his pick, as he took shots at them.
“I have a lot of friends, some of them called [asking] ‘Do you mind if I vote for the other candidate?’ I said, ‘really I don’t mind,'” Trump told the Hunstville, Alabama, crowd, seeming to recognize that frontrunner former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore has secured a massive following among Trump supporters.
“I mean some of them are working for me and that’s fine,” Trump continued.
Indeed, even Trump’s cabinet has not universally toed the line in the Alabama special U.S. Senate primary. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Dr. Ben Carson took the opportunity to endorse Moore only hours before Trump took the stage in Huntsville.
“Of course, they may not have a job on Monday, but there’s are mino-,” the president said, cutting himself off mid-joke.
“May have to get rid of a few of them. I’ve already gotten rid of a few of them,” Trump continued smiling, a possible reference to his once Chief Strategist and now again Breitbart News Chairman Steve Bannon, and Dr. Sebastian Gorka. “But they’re good people. No, they’re good people.”
Gorka, also a recent departure from Trump’s White House, has been a fervent Moore campaigner. Trump’s apparent reference was foreshadowed at Thursday night’s debate when Luther Strange said, “As a matter of fact, many of the people who are supporting [Moore] look like the unemployment line at the White House, they’re fired, they’re not there and there’s a reason for that — the president is his own man.”
Populist-nationalist hero Attorney General Jeff Sessions was also not spared the president’s criticism. When Trump’s talk turned to the horrors that would have befallen Alabamans and their Second Amendment rights in a Hillary Clinton administration, the crowd erupted in the familiar “lock her up” chant. Trump placed the responsibility for Clinton having not been prosecuted entirely in Sessions’s lap. “You gotta speak to Jeff Sessions about that,” he said, arms thrown up at his sides.
In Sessions’s case, that statement is a return to a taste of the very public shaming of the attorney general in which Trump engaged this July, to the chagrin of his populist base.
Trump, who, at other times in his nearly hour-and-a-half-long address, seemed less than unequivocal in his support of Strange, has also been invited to a pro-Moore rally in Washington County Saturday.
With voters slated to head to the polls Tuesday, Moore is holding a steady and significant, but not overwhelming, lead over Strange in the polls.