The already red-hot Republican competition to take back Jeff Sessions’s old Senate seat in Alabama could gain a new contestant over the next week or so: Jeff Sessions. That’s what Politico is hearing, at least:
Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions is strongly considering jumping into the race for his old Senate seat in Alabama, according to multiple Republican sources familiar with the matter.
Sessions would scramble the already crowded field of Republicans seeking to take on Democratic Sen. Doug Jones, who won a 2017 special election to fill the remainder of Sessions’ term and is widely viewed as the most vulnerable senator on the ballot next year.
Sessions would have to qualify for the race by November 8, so if this is just a trial balloon, it doesn’t have much time to stay aloft. He obviously has a few assets to bring to a potential 2020 Senate race: He won four Senate elections beginning in 2002, with steadily ascending percentages of the vote (he had no Democratic opponent in 2014). He has 100 percent name ID. And he has $2.5 million sitting in his old Senate campaign account that he could tap. He also has some strong ideological friends in Washington: The Club for Growth has already made it clear it would back him if he does plunge into the race.
Opponents of the idea would presumably include the five major candidates already in the 2020 Senate race in the Yellowhammer State, including Congressman Bradley Byrne, Secretary of State John Merrill, state legislator Arnold Mooney, former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville, and the man who lost the 2017 special election for Republicans that put Democrat Doug Jones in the Senate, Judge Roy Moore. Tuberville and Byrne are considered the front-runners at the moment. And one would assume that all these rivals either have or will beat a trail to the door of the one man thought powerful enough to kill off any Sessions Senate run, as Merrill suggested to CNN:
Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill, who is one of the GOP candidates vying for the seat, told CNN that Sessions “immediately becomes the front-runner” if he gets into the race. But Merrill acknowledged that Sessions’ chances could be complicated by his relationship with Trump, which was badly strained after Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, leading to the appointment of a special counsel.
“Sen. Sessions has made himself vulnerable with some of the things that have happened” with the President, Merrill said. “That would be something people who support Sen. Sessions would have to give consideration to.”
“If the President were to come out publicly against Sen. Sessions,” Merrill added, “I think it would be very difficult for Sen. Sessions to overcome that.”
Since the Republican race so far has mostly been an exercise in competitive idolatry of Trump, that’s probably true, though it’s worth remembering that Trump was 0-for-3 during the 2017 special election, endorsing Luther Strange in the primary and Republican runoff and then Moore in the general election. Despite the sadistically vengeful way Trump treated Sessions before and after he resigned as attorney general, Sessions still professes to be a supporter of his ex-boss. But if he gets a strong enough negative signal from the White House, that might be enough to keep him out of the race.
Meanwhile, Doug Jones must be thanking his lucky stars for the Alabama Republicans’ disarray.