WH makes final push for Strange on eve of Alabama runoff
Peter Doocy reports from Birmingham on busy last day of campaign
The two Republican Alabama Senate candidates face off today in what is one of the first tests of President Donald Trump’s influence on elections.
Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to finish out Jeff Sessions’ term when he was tapped as the U.S. attorney general, faces the conservative former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore Tuesday in a runoff.
Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence visited Alabama over the past week to campaign for Strange.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon pitted himself against Trump in the race as he backed Moore and campaigned for him on the eve of the election. In Alabama Monday night, Bannon also praised Trump as “one of the most courageous individuals” in an apparent move to alleviate fears Trump’s own base may have over siding with a different candidate.
Moore also received the support of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, Brexit leader Nigel Farage and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
Despite having Trump’s support, being buoyed by millions of dollars in advertising by a super political action committee tied to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Moore’s past controversies, Strange was unable to avoid a runoff during a primary last month and trails in the polls.
The special general election slated for Dec. 12. Here’s a look at the candidates.
Called the “Ayatollah of Alabama” by critics who believe he too closely marries his political and judicial responsibilities with religion, Judge Roy Moore emerged as the leader of the Republicans vying for the Senate seat.
Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks to supporters in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Known as the “Ten Commandments Judge,” Moore has garnered the support of many anti-establishment conservatives, including Breitbart executive and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon. The populist Breitbart News website has also written favorably about Moore, seemingly breaking from Trump.
Despite his popularity, Moore is mired in controversy. He was twice removed from Alabama’s Supreme Court. The first time, he was removed when he refused to move a boulder-sized Ten Commandments monument from the statehouse; he was permanent suspended in 2016 after he instructed probate judges to deny marriage licenses to gay people.
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Moore used those controversies to boost his support among conservative evangelicals while campaigning, and he told Republican voters that those cases were akin to battle scars for standing up for what he believes. On his campaign website, Moore said he was suspended for “upholding the sanctity of marriage as between one man and one woman.”
Moore was also called racially insensitive when he used dated terms to seemingly describe Asian people and Native Americans during a recent campaign speech.
“Now we have blacks and white fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No, it’s going to be God,” he said.
He also suggested the 9/11 terrorist attacks were a punishment from God and suggested that God was upset with the U.S. because “we legitimize sodomy” and “legitimize abortion," CNN reported.
Bannon blasts GOP establishment's role in Ala. Senate race
At his rally on the eve of the election, Moore said “all of Washington is waiting to see what Alabama does.” Wearing a white cowboy hat, Moore doubled down on his support of the Second Amendment and brandished a handgun during the event.
STRANGE: ROY MOORE HAS NO RECORD OF CONSERVATIVE ACCOMPLISHMENT
Many supporters in the crowd wore the iconic red “Make America Great Again” hats from Trump’s campaign or other pro-Trump clothing. Chu Green, of Mobile, Ala., told the Associated Press that she thinks Trump “knows he made a mistake” in endorsing Strange.
At Moore’s rally, she held a sign that said “Mr. President and Mr. V.P. I love you but you are wrong! America needs Judge Moore,” according to the Associated Press.
Despite being backed by GOP senators and Trump, Luther Strange failed to avoid a runoff and came in second to Judge Roy Moore. Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Strange is still behind Moore.
President Donald Trump endorsed Sen. Luther Strange in a special primary election next week. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Trump was in Alabama Friday to campaign for Strange – sometimes called “Big Luther” because of his 6-foot-9-inch frame. In his wide-ranging speech – which touched on the North Korea conflict and NFL players who protest during the national anthem – Trump said Strange would “defend your interests, fight for your values and always put America first.”
The president has tweeted his support of Strange multiple times, including on Tuesday morning.
“Luther Strange has been shooting up in the Alabama polls since my endorsement. Finish the job – vote today for ‘Big Luther,’” Trump said.
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Strange, who was tapped by Alabama’s former governor to finish out Sessions’ term, was the state’s attorney general and had joined a lawsuit against the Obama administration that challenged the former president’s executive order on amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
Aside from the president, Strange also racked up endorsements from the National Rifle Association of America, National Right to Life and the Alabama Farmers Federation.
Although a favorite of the establishment, Strange’s struggles raised concerns among GOP members of Congress, even if he does ultimately survive the runoff.
Strange: Moore has no record of conservative accomplishment
"There are probably a number of incumbents on both sides of the aisle who should take notice of another demonstration that voters still want change," Greg Strimple, a Republican pollster for a political action committee aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan, told the Associated Press.
"The takeaway is that Washington is very unpopular," Strimple said, and that overrides even Trump's endorsement, because he cannot simply "transfer his brand" to candidates, like the lobbyist-turned-politician Strange, who fail to establish their own outsider credentials.
A former U.S. attorney during the Clinton administration, Jones beat out seven other Democrats to secure the party’s nomination.
Senate candidate Doug Jones chats with constituents before a forum in Decatur, Ala. (AP Photo/Jeronimo Nisa)
Jones has been openly critical of Trump – particularly when it comes to Trump’s wish to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate change agreement – and picked up key endorsements from liberal lawmakers.
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Former Vice President Joe Biden endorsed Jones in the primary and lent his voice to robocalls made to voters.
“Doug Jones will make a great U.S. senator so please make sure you get out and vote on Tuesday – and I’m hoping you’ll vote for my friend, Doug Jones,” Biden said.
Jones was also endorsed by Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., Cedric Richmond, D-La., and Terri Sewell, D-Ala.
While a Republican candidate is widely expected to win the seat, Alabama Democrats are reportedly feeling optimistic about their candidate.
Jones is perhaps best known for successfully prosecuting two members of the Ku Klux Klan accused of bombing a Birmingham church in 1963 that killed four little girls.
His campaign website touts his progressive ideals and plans for health care reform and protecting Planned Parenthood.
“The shenanigans around the 2016 campaign must be pushed aside and full equality for women made the law and the norm in America,” Jones said on his website.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.