BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Sen. Luther Strange and challenger Roy Moore made their final push Monday to sway voters ahead of Alabama’s Republican runoff for U.S. Senate, a race that’s pitted President Donald Trump against his former strategist, Steve Bannon.
Trump called an Alabama radio show Monday to urge support for Strange in Tuesday’s runoff for the GOP nomination, and Vice President Mike Pence campaigned for Strange in Birmingham while Bannon spoke at a Moore rally at the coast.
Taking the stage to prolonged applause, Bannon said Alabama can show the world “that this populist, nationalist, conservative movement is on the rise.”
“A vote for Roy Moore is a vote for Donald J. Trump,” Bannon said. Bannon lashed out at negative ads funded by allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Bannon said Republican “elites” had put millions of dollars into the Alabama race “to destroy a man.”
“Now is that going to work?” Bannon asked. “No!” the crowd roared. Bannon added that those same GOP leaders “think you’re a bunch of morons” and “rubes.”
Wearing a white cowboy hat and a black leather vest, Moore repeated the conservative Christian themes that he has used his entire public career, quoting Bible passages and Colonial leaders at length.
“All of Washington is watching to see what Alabama does tomorrow,” Moore said.
Saying he was invited to the Moore rally by Bannon, Brexit leader Nigel Farage cast the Republican’s campaign as a continuation of a string of events that included the British vote to exit the European Union, Trump’s election and a never-ending fight against the “global liberal media.”
Trump, who held a rally Friday in Huntsville for Strange, continued his efforts Monday, calling a popular Alabama radio show to campaign. Trump predicted that Moore, whom he mistakenly called “Ray,” would have a “hard time” in the December election against Democrat Doug Jones.
“Luther Strange is going to be a great senator. He already has, and he has already helped me,” Trump said on the “Rick & Bubba” radio show.
Strange, Alabama’s former attorney general, was appointed to the seat previously held by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February. Moore is the state’s Alabama’s chief justice, but was twice removed from that office because of stands for the public display of the Ten Commandments and against gay marriage.
Propelled by his support from evangelical voters, Moore led Strange by about 25,000 votes in the crowded August primary and runoff polls have shown him leading, or in a dead heat with, Strange. Strange looked to help from the White House to try to avoid another second-place finish Tuesday
On Monday evening, Pence spoke to several hundred Strange supporters in at airplane hangar in Birmingham, praising Strange’s record of helping the Trump administration.
“Luther Strange is a real conservative. He’s a leader and a real friend to President Trump. I got to tell you, Big Luther has been making a big difference in Washington,” Pence said before exiting the stage to the tune of “Sweet Home Alabama.”
“Tomorrow, there’s a lot on the line,” Strange said, speaking in front of a large American flag to introduce Pence. “For the vice president and the president and of the United States to come here on my behalf means more than I can possibly say.”
Walking into the humid hangar to hear Pence, 57-year-old Randy Beasley of Springville said he had been undecided in the race but was swayed to vote for Strange because of his backing from the National Rifle Association. Beasley said he also had concerns that the twice-ousted chief justice “might have more of a negative image for the state.”
Although Trump has endorsed Luther Strange, many in the crowd at the Moore rally wore Trump T-shirts or “Make America Great Again” hats.
Chu Green, 71, of Mobile said she arrived five hours early to snag a front row spot just feet from the speaker’s microphone. She held up a sign reading: “Mr. President and Mr. V.P. I love you but you are wrong! America needs Judge Moore.”
“It’s how I feel in my heart,” Green said. “I think (Trump) knows he made a mistake. He had an obligation to Strange.”