Luther Strange spent much of his time during a debate with Judge Roy Moore Thursday evening touting what he called his “close, personal friendship” with President Donald Trump, who has endorsed his candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
During the Lincoln-Douglas-style debate, Strange referred some 28 times to the fact that Trump endorsed him over Moore.
“The first question is, who does the president support? The president supports me,” Strange started from the outset of the debate.
“The president of the United States will take time out of his schedule – with all the things going on in the world today, to come to Huntsville tomorrow afternoon and campaign for me,” Strange touted, boasting his “close, personal friendship” with Trump.
“We’re both people of accomplishment, we’re both people who’ve taken on tough issues, and we’ve sorta bonded,” Strange added, noting as well the support he has received from Vice President Mike Pence.
“Luther, I am so anxious to get into the fight with you, shoulder to shoulder,” Strange bragged about Pence’s reported words to him.
Strange said he believes he and Trump “bonded” because they both share anger and frustration about what has happened in the country.
“It’s not just because of my sterling personality, it’s because I have a record,” Strange said, attempting to defend his conservative bona fides and quash the perceptions of many that he is an establishment candidate.
“We have thousands of people coming from all over this state, to hear him [Trump] talk about a can-do person here in the Senate race,” Strange said about himself, adding that “having a personal relationship with the president and the vice president is so critically important if we want to get something done.”
Later on, Strange said “about 20,000” people were coming to hear the president talk about why he endorsed him.
Strange debate summary: Trump picked me, he's coming for me, Trump loves me, and Mike Pence loves me so much we can't eat alone #ALSEN
— Josh Moon (@Josh_Moon) September 21, 2017
Strange’s constant references to his “personal friendship” with the president and Trump’s endorsement of him led Moore at one point to quip:
Well, I’m certainly glad I’m not running against the president of the United States. Nor am I running against the vice president of the United States. And I can’t tell you what the president thinks, I can’t tell you every move he makes, when he goes to the bathroom and when he doesn’t – like my opponent.
At one point, Strange himself said, “I know you may get tired of hearing this, and you may resent that the president is my friend and is supporting me in this race.”
The appointed incumbent senator and former state attorney general said he and Trump “actually have enough of a relationship where we can laugh about” being attacked by others.
“The president made a decision freely in picking me – picking me – and I’m proud that he’s here,” Strange said, continuing:
We’re going to have a historic time tomorrow night in Huntsville, Alabama…it is going to be magnificent … and the president will come himself and say this. It’s not going to be me saying it, the president will say why he needs me in Washington. That is historic, it’s going to be a historic occasion. The vice president is coming … and they’ve made a decision…
“I’m glad to be his friend,” Strange again said of his relationship with Trump.
The Alabama primary runoff election is September 26. The winner of that race will face the Democratic candidate – former Clinton U.S. Attorney Doug Jones – on December 12.