Thursday at the White House press briefing, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders fielded a question from Newsmax’s John Gizzi on if President Donald Trump was “backing away” from his endorsement of Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), a candidate for the Republican nomination in Alabama’s U.S. Senate special election.
Strange is facing a challenge from former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore Trump for the GOP nod, which will be settled in a runoff election scheduled for September 26.
Late in the primary campaign, Strange had received an endorsement from President Donald Trump, which came in the form of posts to the president’s Twitter account.
Senator Luther Strange has done a great job representing the people of the Great State of Alabama. He has my complete and total endorsement!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
Luther Strange of the Great State of Alabama has my endorsement. He is strong on Border & Wall, the military, tax cuts & law enforcement.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 14, 2017
Trump had also recorded a robocall for Strange at the end of the primary campaign. In that contest, Strange finished second behind Moore.
But, according to The Washington Post said Trump could be backing off his support of Strange in the runoff against Moore.
“[T]rump is considering being less engaged than in the first round of voting, when he tweeted his support and recorded a robo-call for the senator, they said — potentially turning the contest into yet another example of the frayed relationship between Trump and McConnell,” Robert Costa, Sean Sullivan and David Weigel wrote for the Post on August 25.
Sanders declined to comment on the endorsement and deferred to “outside folks and the president himself.”
Transcript as follows:
SANDERS: John Gizzi?
GIZZI: Yes, thank you, Sarah. Just one question on…
SANDERS: Just one.
GIZZI: Just one on politics.
The president gave a very strong endorsement through Twitter of Senator Luther Strange in his bid for nomination in the special election. The run-off is coming up September 26th. There have been published reports that the president is backing away from that endorsement and not taking sides, which would make him the first Republican president in 47 years not to back an incumbent senator for another term.
Is he as committed to Senator Strange? Or has his position changed since the original primary?
SANDERS: Due to the legal restrictions that I have, I cannot answer anything political from the podium. So I have to leave that to outside folks and the president himself to answer that.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor