Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his gang of establishment Republicans implored President Donald Trump to campaign for establishment Republican Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) against conservative frontrunner Roy Moore, the former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice, because they reportedly are terrified that more grassroots candidates across the country will challenge establishment Republicans if Moore defeats Strange on Tuesday.
Moore has led in every poll leading up to Tuesday’s runoff in what has been described as the “first proxy battle” between Trump and his former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who has vowed to support the economic nationalist agenda that got Trump elected in the first place.
Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka will campaign for Moore on Thursday. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will campaign for Strange on Friday and Monday, respectively.
According to the Washington Post, Trump’s advisers “were deeply divided on whether” Trump “should risk jetting to Alabama to prop up” Strange. But GOP establishment forces reportedly waged “an intense behind-the-scenes campaign to convince Trump that he could carry Strange across the finish line with an appearance in Alabama.”
Though White House Chief of Staff John Kelly was reportedly hesitant about sending Trump to Alabama to potentially waste his political capital, establishment Senate Republicans were “unwilling to let the president turn his attention elsewhere” because they worried that a Strange defeat “could prompt some GOP senators to retire to avoid facing the wrath of anti-establishment voters and the likes of Bannon’s Breitbart News,” according to the Post’s Bob Costa.
He points out that Strange’s establishment consultant Jeff Roe “fed regular updates to Jared Kushner” while establishment consultant Ward Baker, who advises a pro-McConnell super PAC that has reportedly “poured more than $8 million into Alabama to support Strange,” updated Trump and Pence. Pence loyalist Kellyanne Conway reportedly “impressed upon Trump how much power his visit could have in Alabama and reminded him that all five of the candidates he backed in special elections this year won.” And establishment Republican Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who just recently openly questioned Trump’s fitness to be president that in turn got him plenty of plaudits from the legacy press and vicious Never Trumpers, also begged Trump to campaign for Strange.
“You’ve got to go,” Corker reportedly told Trump, according to the Post. “We need you there.”
The Post reported that Moore has become a “darling to Trump’s base,” especially after, as U.S. News & World Report noted, “Bannon and his like-minded nationalists lieutenants at Breitbart have watched Trump’s centrist turn with great unease.” Since Bannon left the White House, Trump has caved on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), made deals with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), increased the country’s troop levels in Afghanistan, and has contemplated not completely withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord.
“Alabama sent Donald Trump to the White House. It all started in Alabama when Jeff Sessions joined Donald Trump at a rally in Mobile in 2015 and said, ‘Welcome to my hometown.’ Now Alabama has a chance to send a wake-up call back to Washington and say to President Trump, ‘It’s time to right the ship,'” a Bannon confidante told U.S. News, which noted that “Bannon sees his most compelling point of influence to be an election that rocks the president back to reality.”
“Trump was messenger of the movement, But the movement is stronger than the president. That’s what people in Alabama are going to show next week,” the Bannon confidante reportedly added.