President Trump went from silence to cautious defense to full-throated support
Here's a look at the shift among Republicans in headlines and quotes about Moore
The path to the Republican Party’s acceptance of Roy Moore was paved by one thing: Cold, hard political calculus. And math. So, two things.
The evolution, which is nearly complete, was helped along by President Donald Trump, who went from silence on Moore to cautious defense of Moore’s denials to a full-throated support of Moore Monday morning. Trump’s reason? Democrats cannot be allowed to get the Senate seat in Alabama.
Republicans really, really want to pass a tax cuts/tax reform bill. And they’re most of the way there, but they’ll need a Republican in office to make that tax cut effort happen. Moore, as the guy who earned his way onto the ballot, is the only Republican who can feasibly win that key Senate seat.
You can sense that pivot in statements not only by Trump, although his are the most direct, but also from Republicans like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Susan Collins, among others.
Here we chart the shift among Republicans in headlines and quotes picked from the 25 days since the the Washington Post’s initial story about the sexual advances Moore made on teenagers when he was in 30s.
Washington Post headline: Woman says Roy Moore initiated sexual encounter when she was 14, he was 32
CNN headline – McConnell on Moore: ‘I believe the women,’ Moore should go
But McConnell did not want to talk about Moore too much. There was this awkward moment of ignoring questions later the same day.
Sen. Cory Gardner, the head of the committee in charge of getting Republicans elected to Senate seats in 2018, says that even if he wins, he should be expelled from the body. Gardner said in a statement, “he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.”
McConnell, however, does not endorse the idea of a vote to kick Moore out of the body should he win.
CNN headline – Collins: I hope Moore doesn’t win
But – and Collins has been consistent on this – If Moore does win, he’ll have to be seated. And who knows what an ethics committee investigation will conclude, so Collins would have to accept him until an ethics panel offered its recommendation.
Key quote: “So, these allegations are extremely disturbing, but, under the Constitution, the test on whether or not you seat someone is whether they satisfy the age and residency requirements. So, we would have to seat him, but I hope we don’t get there. I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves, and I hope that the voters of Alabama choose not to elect him.”
McConnell, meanwhile, was not-so-subtly hinting Alabamians should write in Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who once held the Senate seat.
CNN headline: Trump all but endorses Roy Moore
After days of staying mum, Trump stops short of endorsing Moore, but gives him a defense, referencing the candidate’s denials of accusations ranging from making sexual advances on teenage girls to sexual assault with women. Trump, it should be noted, has denied multiple sexual assault accusations against himself.
Republicans continue to keep Moore at arm’s length. Fellow Alabama Republican, Sen. Richard Shelby, says he “wrote in a distinguished Republican” on his ballot, and it wasn’t Roy Moore.
CNN headline – Susan Collins: If Roy Moore wins, ‘we have to seat him’
And not only that, it’s possible the voters simply get to make that choice, regardless of his past actions.
Key quote: “If the voters of the state, fully knowing all of these allegations, nevertheless choose to elect Roy Moore, is it appropriate for the Senate to expel him?” Collins asked. “I think that’s a really difficult question, and I don’t know the answer to that yet.”
Days later, Republicans pass their tax reform bill, which Collins supported at the last minute.
In the wee hours of Saturday morning, Republicans in the Senate passed a package of tax cuts and reforms on a nearly party line 51-49 basis. If a Democrat wins in Alabama and is seated (and presumably sides with other Democrats against the new version of the bill that emerges from a House-Senate conference committee), the margin would be even closer – 50-50.
And if he wins, will Moore be seated? You bet, said McConnell, although his case could find its way to the ethics committee.
Key quote: “We have two ethics investigations in the Senate going on right now. Sen. (Al) Franken and Sen. (Bob) Menendez and there might well be another one depending upon people who are in the Senate. And it’ll be up to the people of Alabama to make this decision. And we’ll swear in whoever’s elected and see where we are at that particular point.”
CNN headline – Trump fully endorses Roy Moore
Trump’s tweet: “Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama,” wrote Trump of the embattled Republican who faces a series of accusations from women that he pursued relationships with them when he was in his early 30 and they were teenagers. “We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more. No to Jones, a Pelosi/Schumer Puppet!”
And there you have it. With Trump’s help, Republicans have gone from a near-rejection of Moore, random ideas to launch a serious write-in campaign and the thought of voting immediately to expel if he did win to a near-acceptance in 25 days. Election day is December 12. Republicans are hoping to get that tax bill on Trump’s desk by Christmas, 13 days later.