If the words of Senator Cory Gardner, chair of the Senate GOP’s campaign committee, are any indication of the way things are going, Republicans may have a new strategy for dealing with Roy Moore: hope that he defeats Democrat Doug Jones on December 12, and then once he’s sworn in expel him from the Senate so that Governor Kay Ivey can appoint yet another temporary senator.
“I believe the individuals speaking out against Roy Moore spoke with courage and truth, proving he is unfit to serve in the United States Senate and he should not run for office,” Gardner said in a statement. “If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate.”
The Senate does indeed have the power to expel members, though it hasn’t done so since tossing 14 of its members who supported a military rebellion against the United States in 1861 and 1862. On six other occasions, the specter of expulsion has hastened senatorial resignations (most recently by Robert Packwood in 1995 — on sexual-harassment charges — and John Ensign in 2011).
That’s probably Gardner’s idea, too: convincing Roy Moore that he’s not going to wear that senatorial toga too long. But with no live option for getting Moore off the ballot, and no obvious write-in candidate (assuming Jeff Sessions really isn’t interested) to bypass him, it looks like Moore will have to fight to hold off Democrat Doug Jones on December 12. If Jones wins, obviously, all the GOP talk about sidelining Moore is moot.
This leaves Republicans in an impossible position: they have to help Roy Moore win before they can kick him out of the U.S. Senate.
Presented with an equally difficult situation in Louisiana in 1991, Democrats saddled with the ethically challenged Edwin Edwards in a gubernatorial contest with the racist David Duke came up with an imaginative message: “Vote For the Crook. It’s Important.” It’s not clear that in a campaign against the highly respectable Doug Jones, the GOP can succeed with the message: “Vote For the Pedophile. It’s Important.” But that’s where they could be headed.