early and often

Mo Brooks May Survive Trump’s Betrayal in Alabama Senate Race

Mo Brooks is bloodied but unbowed after being unendorsed by Trump. Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photos: Getty Images

There is something mildly tragicomic about Representative Mo Brooks’s campaign to become a U.S. senator from Alabama. His campaign website still shows him at two peak moments of his long career in right-wing extremist politics: (1) speaking at Donald Trump’s January 6 rally just before he went over to the Capitol to lead the charge to decertify Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential win and (2) appearing at an August 2021 Trump rally in Cullman, Alabama, when he was the former president’s endorsed candidate for the seat being vacated by Richard Shelby, the retiring senior senator.

But Trump famously unendorsed Brooks on March 23 after an extended period of grumbling about his campaign. Trump contrived a ludicrous excuse for his action: that Brooks had gone “woke” when he urged a crowd to “move on” from the 2020 election instead of wallowing in it endlessly. We’re talking about Mo Brooks, the very voice and face of the intransigent MAGA right through January 6!

Trump’s cronies have shrugged and suggested that Brooks knew better than to speak out of line about the myth of the stolen election. Steve Bannon, one of the few Trump intimates who hasn’t written off Brooks entirely, used explicitly religious terms in explaining what happened, per Politico:

“Mo committed a mortal sin,” Bannon said, referring to Brooks’ comments at the August rally about moving on from 2020. “This is why his campaign has just lost altitude ever since then, and he hasn’t gotten it back.”

“It’s a lesson to everyone,” Bannon continued. “Trump can giveth, and Trump can taketh away.”

Brooks has owned up to his own mental apostasy, arguing that Trump wanted the impossible. According to Alabama reporter Paul Gattis, “Brooks maintains he lost Trump’s support because he refused Trump’s urging to work in Congress to remove President Joe Biden from office — because, of course, the Constitution didn’t allow it.”

What makes Brooks’ treatment by Trump even more egregious is the former president’s political flirtation with rival and now front-runner Katie Britt, the former Shelby chief of staff, business lobbyist, and Senate Republican Establishment favorite who more or less embodies The Swamp.

But like a defrocked priest who can’t take off the collar, Brooks is sojourning on. His underfunded campaign is still benefitting from the deep pockets of his longtime friends in the Club for Growth. He has high name ID as a fixture in Alabama Republican politics since the early 1980s, when many conservatives in the state were still nominally Democrats. And presumably there are some America First die-hards who understand Brooks was a proto-MAGA politician back when Trump was still donating money to Democrats.

And now the star-crossed Brooks may have finally caught a break. One of the other two major candidates in the race, wealthy celebrity war veteran Mike Durant (a survivor of the events that inspired Black Hawk Down), is fading rapidly in the polls, partly because the novelty of his self-funded and not terribly substantive ads has worn off and partly because a shadowy super-PAC called the Alabama RINO PAC has been running ads hammering him as the instrument of out-of-state Never Trumpers and Democrats. Two recent polls, one from Moore Information Group and another from Alabama Daily News, have shown Durant even with or even trailing Brooks for a spot in a likely June 21 runoff against Britt, who is doing well but isn’t likely to win the majority needed to win outright.

If Brooks does make the runoff against Britt, it will be fascinating to see if Trump endorses the Swamp’s candidate in order to administer the coup de grâce to the follower he betrayed. The idea may appeal to Trump’s innate cruelty and narcissism, but for all his wild popularity in the state, his track record in Alabama Senate races is mixed. He endorsed three straight losing candidacies in a special Senate election in 2017 that culminated in the victory of an actual Democrat, Doug Jones. One of those losers, Judge Roy Moore, was, like Brooks, a pre-Trump reactionary icon who proceeded to beat the then-president’s candidate, Luther Strange, before succumbing in the general election. Katie Britt is arguably a far more attractive candidate than Big Luther, but nothing could possibly please Mo Brooks more than reciprocating Trump’s ill-treatment. He’s bloodied but unbowed, despite being unendorsed.

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Brooks May Survive Trump’s Betrayal in Alabama Senate Race