Earlier today, the Washington Post released a story alleging that Alabamian GOP nominee for U.S. Senate, Roy Moore, molested a 14-year-old girl and dated three other underage girls. The allegations are dated back to the late ’70s and early ’80s. Immediately after the story broke, many of Moore’s future-would-be Republican colleagues in the Senate began to release statements calling for Moore should step aside … should the allegations “prove true.”
Your intrepid journalists at the Daily Intelligencer began to break down the political implications of the news. Now we join the DI politics chat, already in progress.
Jon: Can Republicans stick with this “whoa, if true” position?
Eric: I think they can stick with it, but it may limit their ability — including, possibly, Trump’s ability — to rally around his candidacy in the home stretch.
Ezekiel: I think a lot depends on what happens next. Moore’s blanket … non-denial (?) is not convincing. He doesn’t distinguish between any of the allegations in his denial, which strikes me as particularly damning. Is he really denying that he took some of these girls on multiple dates with the blessing of their mothers?
Olivia: By any normal standard, “step aside, if true” couldn’t be a viable long-term position, but by current Republican standards, I think it’s completely possible for any Senator or Congressman to just say that, refuse to comment further, and wait it out. It’s not the right response, but politically, I don’t think it’ll get anyone into trouble.
Eric: Is Trump capable of toeing that line? Hard to believe there won’t be a tweet condemning the Fake News media’s attacks on Loyal Roy.
Jon: I am happy to role play how I think Republican Senators will handle this.
Ezekiel: Let’s have it.
Jon: I am Senator Mitch McConnell. I am here to talk about the issue the American people care about.
Olivia: Hello, Mitch.
Jon: I am ready for your questions. Seems like mah friends in the liberal media are a little tongue-tied, heh heh.
Eric: Senator McConnell, now that 15 women have all said that Roy Moore tried to date them as teenagers, do you believe it’s time for him to drop out of the race?
Jon: I have said that if true, he should not be a senator, but this is a matter for the courts to decide. We have a legal system in this country. Now, we are working very hard to create jobs.
Eric: But senator, the statute of limitations bars any legal action on these allegations.
Jon: If a credible investigation finds that there is truth, then he should step aside. Old hazy allegations that a judge denies should not end a man’s career.
Olivia: I don’t think McConnell would say that, Jon. That last part.
Eric: Yeah, me neither.
Ezekiel: [throws popcorn]
Jon: The Washington Post is not going to play judge and jury on this important question?
Ed: What does “step aside” mean? Isn’t it too late to substitute another Republican candidate?
Olivia: Well that’s the thing, “step aside” is meaningless here. Or it seems to be, anyway, based on what’s been reported about the process.
Eric: Can the Senate refuse to seat him?
Ezekiel: It’s not “meaningless”, right? He can’t get his name off the ballot, but he can say he’s no longer running.
Olivia: But they can’t install anyone else in his place.
Ezekiel: It would mean a write-in campaign.
Olivia: Am I wrong that that would be like the Republicans just opting to sit this one out altogether? There’s no way a write in would work, right?
Ed: Part of the political problem here is that there’s no obvious substitute, unless Sessions quits and comes back.
Olivia: Trump might like that actually.
Ed: Write-ins worked for Murkowski in Alaska.
Olivia: But there are like eleven people in Alaska
Jon: Murkowski won by consolidating a big chunk of the center-left vote. The Democrat got under 12%. That’s how she won. I don’t see Doug Jones disappearing like that.
Ezekiel: I feel pretty confident that it’s going to be a mess.
Olivia: lol. I’m with Ezekiel.
Eric: If tax reform didn’t hang in the balance, “better two years of Doug Jones than a lifetime of Roy Moore” would be a compelling argument.
Jon: Tax reform, hell, Jones could give Democrats 51 seats after the midterms. I expect them to pick up Nevada and Arizona. Decent shot of holding every incumbent seat.
Ed: Yeah, as I pointed out in a post on the politics of this, Moore’s RCP lead over Jones is just 6 percent.
Ed: So it’s like Akin in 2012.
Olivia: But back to the initial question: what would make “if true” politically untenable for someone like McConnell? I don’t see it.
Jon: I’m guessing several more on the record accusers.
Ezekiel: And collapsing polls.
Ezekiel: I think the GOP can stomach anything if it looks like he’s going to win anyway. If it looks like the voters are going to abandon him, though, under the bus he goes
Eric: That is the lesson of grab’em-by-the-pussygate.
Olivia: I guess what I’m most curious about is, does Trump’s ability to survive politically despite a dozen accusations of rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment or sexual misconduct mean that Republicans more broadly can survive this now? Or is Trump, as he often is, an anomaly?
Jon: What Trump does will matter a lot, too.
Ed: With every day that goes by, any option other than taking a dive or backing Moore anyway begins to vanish.
Jon: Big thumbs down.
Ed: Wow, is this ever moving fast.
Eric: Republicans weren’t saying “If this is true” about Trump in the last weeks of the campaign.
Ezekiel: You know, I think the “if true” is really bad news for Moore. The way to inoculate the public against the allegations would be to rally around with “fake news,” etc.
Olivia: But Republicans also thought Trump would lose the last weeks of the campaign. His own staff thought he’d lose. I think he thought he’d lose.
Eric: But they thought he had a chance.
Ezekiel: Right. What matters is the polls.
Eric: Right after the Access Hollywood thing broke, they expected a landslide. Paul Ryan told his caucus he wouldn’t support Trump. Then Trump’s polling remained competitive. And they just moved on. My point is: I don’t think you can say on the eve of the Alabama election “We don’t know for certain that the GOP candidate is a child sex predator, so please go out and vote for him.”
Jon: Not sure if we’ve gone over this, but Strange cannot run as a write-in:
Olivia: But so what is their option? Just stay quiet and let him die slowly and painfully?
Eric: I think they need to decide this is fake news, that Doug Jones is just as bad because he once watched a film produced by Harvey Weinstein, or just forfeit their ability to discuss the race at all.
Olivia: I think the latter is the only viable option.
Ed: Unless some deus ex machina like Sessions appears.
Eric: Or, unless they’re able to discredit some small part of the story. So Sessions can reclaim his seat at any time?
Ezekiel: Yeah, what’s the Sessions path?
Ed: Write in. He’s the only person who could pull it off.