In an Alabama U.S. Senate primary that began as a fierce competition to see which of three leading candidates could pose as the most worshipful supporter of Donald Trump, the president may soon boast the dubious accomplishment of having stabbed two of them in the back.
Before the first round of the primary on August 15 to choose a successor to Jeff Sessions, Congressman Mo Brooks staked his candidacy to a claim that he was entirely loyal to Trump, while appointed incumbent Luther Strange had eyes only for Mitch McConnell. He even made Trump’s demand for an end to the legislative filibuster the centerpiece of his campaign. Then, out of the blue, Trump (expected by everyone in Alabama to remain neutral) endorsed Strange and basically handed an anvil to poor ol’ Mo, who finished a disappointing third.
Strange joyfully embraced his most wonderful president more than ever, hoping Trump’s very high levels of popularity would drag him across the finish line in a runoff against Roy Moore, who finished first on August 15 and seemed to have a big lead in the first post-primary polls.
But now, Trump is having second thoughts about his choice for Alabama, or so the Washington Post is hearing:
President Trump is considering backing away from Sen. Luther Strange in a heated Republican primary runoff in Alabama, according to multiple Republicans close to the White House, underscoring the deteriorating relationship between the president and the Senate GOP.
Yikes! Is nothing sacred? Apparently not when Trump is looking for a way to impress upon Mitch McConnell (who has supplied most of the money for Strange’s campaign) the costs involved in displeasing the White House.
Trump did not signal a desire this week to formally withdraw his endorsement of Strange, the Republicans said. But he is considering being less engaged than in the first round of voting earlier this month, when he tweeted his support and recorded a robo-call for the senator, they said — potentially turning the contest into yet another example of the frayed relationship between Trump and McConnell.
With over a month left to go in the runoff race, Trump’s silence on Strange’s account could shout pretty loudly, even if Trump doesn’t take back his endorsement. Having latched himself to Trump’s mast in order to navigate the storms of criticism and having endured as the senator appointed by disgraced former Governor Robert Bentley under suspicious circumstances, Big Luther could find himself lost on the shoals of a campaign gone terribly wrong. You know, sort of like Mo Brooks.
Fortunately for Roy Moore, his profile among Alabama conservatives doesn’t depend on any mere mortal’s endorsement, given the shockingly widespread belief that he’s the candidate of the angry Old Testament God he is determined to put in charge of America’s future. Indeed, the judge’s nationally renowned reputation as a grim theocrat is both his greatest strength and weakness. Even if Donald Trump abandons Strange, the Alabama business community might help Mitch McConnell give Strange a financial boost out of fear that perceptions of the state as a forward-looking place hospitable to corporations who just want to make profits without much in the way of taxes or regulations could take a hit from Senator Roy Moore hurling thunderbolts at heathens and sodomites every other day.
But whatever happens, future Republican candidates should pay close attention: Don’t trust Donald Trump’s flattery too much. He is most definitely a politician with wandering eyes.