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Many of President Donald Trump’s most prominent, longtime supporters are actively working against his interests in Alabama’s special election to replace former senator and current Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Trump endorsed incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed by then-Governor Robert Bentley when Sessions took the helm of the Department of Justice.
Trump has routinely took to his personal Twitter account to prop up Strange, writing as recently as Wednesday, “Alabama is sooo lucky to have a candidate like ‘Big’ Luther Strange. Smart, tough on crime, borders & trade, loves Vets & Military. Tuesday!”
On Friday, Trump will appear alongside Strange at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama.
But many of the major players in the pro-Trump crowd are backing Strange’s primary opponent, Roy Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama state supreme court, from which he was removed twice.
Breitbart News, the far-right news outlet headed by recently ousted White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, has directed its editorial staff to go all out in their effort to bolster Moore over Strange.
CNN reported Tuesday that the website’s Washington editor Matt Boyle told staff that “as of now, everyone is working on the Alabama race.”
Phil Robertson, of the television show “Duck Dynasty,” endorsed Moore last month.
“He judged with a good understanding of the Constitution and the law, but he also understands natural law and who gave us our rights to begin with, Almighty God,” Robertson said in a statement. “Roy Moore will stand up for truth and what’s right, no matter who opposes him, and that is sorely needed in Washington, DC. I fully endorse his run for the Senate and pray for he and his family.”
And Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and vice presidential candidate who now runs a right-wing website of her own, endorsed Moore in August. On Thursday, she was en route to Montgomery, Alabama to campaign for Moore.
Strange’s candidacy has benefitted from high-profile, establishment backers who are able to pump tremendous sums of money into his campaign. The Senate Leadership Fund, which operates to bolster the interests of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has been on the offensive in pushing Strange over Moore.
But this could actually be damaging Strange in the state – Moore has repeatedly used Strange’s ties to Senate leadership to attack him.
The Wall Street Journal pointed to a recent ad from Brooks in which he questioned Trump’s endorsement of Strange based on his ties to McConnell, saying, “Mr. President, isn’t it time we tell McConnell and Strange, ‘You’re fired?'” And The New York Times noted that at a candidate forum in Alabama, one of Brooks’ top applause lines was his calling for McConnell to be ousted as Senate majority leader.
The only major backer of Trump’s 2016 presidential run who has endorsed Strange is the National Rifle Association (NRA), whose political arm threw its support behind the incumbent in May.
While it has not quite shown in the polls, Moore’s past statements have become a subject of controversy. As late as 2015, CNN found evidence that Moore’s foundation was sharing videos claiming that former President Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim.
CNN also uncovered a 2005 radio interview in which Moore said homosexual acts should be punishable under the law.
“Homosexual conduct should be illegal, yes,” Moore told C-SPAN host Bill Press.
And while Trump has stuck behind Strange, polling shows Moore with a commanding lead. A survey released on Monday by JMC Analytics and Polling showed Moore with an eight-point lead over Strange, meaning Trump’s last-ditch rally to campaign for Strange ahead of Tuesday’s runoff might not be enough.