GOP retreat from Moore intensifies

GOP retreat from Moore intensifies
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Republicans over the weekend continued to distance themselves from Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore (R) after a report alleged that he engaged in sexual contact with a 14-year-old girl in 1979, when he was 32. 

A number of GOP senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTeacher defeats Kentucky state House majority leader in GOP primary Conservatives leery of FBI deal on informant Lobbying world MORE (R-Ky.), have said in the four days since the allegations were revealed that Moore should step aside from the race if report is true. On Sunday, multiple Republican lawmakers said Moore should exit the race should the allegations be true, with two suggesting the Alabama Republican end his Senate bid in the wake of the report.

Two Republican senators on Sunday said that the allegations against Moore appeared stronger than his denials. 

The future of the Senate race remains unclear as some lawmakers push for a potential write-in campaign.

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Republican Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidySenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA GOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary Graham working on new ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (La.) on Saturday went so far as to pull his endorsement of Moore, who is running for the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsDeVos grilled on civil rights for students House conservatives introduce resolution calling for second special counsel The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by PhRMA — How long can a Trump-DOJ accord survive? MORE

“Based on the allegations against Roy Moore, his response and what is known, I withdraw support,” Cassidy said Saturday night.

Sens. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Senate panel advances Trump's CIA nominee Doug Jones to oppose Haspel as CIA chief MORE (R-Utah) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Senators offer tax bill aimed at helping first responders The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by CVS Health - A pivotal day for House Republicans on immigration MORE (R-Mont.) had already revoked their endorsements of Moore on Friday.

Two other Republicans, Sens. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottSenate GOP urges Trump administration to work closely with Congress on NAFTA Fed nominees vow to rebuff pressure from Trump on interest rates The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (S.C.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyWH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race Newly declassified memos detail extent of improper Obama-era NSA spying MORE (Pa.), argued Sunday that the allegations levied against Moore in The Washington Post are stronger than his denials.

Toomey urged Moore to step out of the race and suggested Republicans back a write-in campaign for Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeSenate GOP relieved after primary wins Blankenship: I’m Trumpier than Trump National GOP pours in money to stop Blankenship in West Virginia MORE (R-Ala.), who currently holds the seat but lost the primary runoff to Moore in September.

“We’ll probably never know for sure exactly what happened. But from my point of view, you know, I have to say I think the accusations have more credibility than the denial. I think it would be best if Roy would just step aside,” Toomey told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” 

“The denial was not as strong as the allegations,” Scott similarly told CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

The GOP’s retreat from the former Alabama judge comes after the Post in a story published Thursday detailed an account from a 53-year-old woman, Leigh Corfman, who said she had a sexual encounter with Moore in 1979, when she was 14 years old and he was 32. The report also included accounts from three other women who said Moore attempted to court them around that time, when they were between 16 and 18 years old. 

Moore and his campaign have denied the allegations by Corfman, arguing they are politically motivated and noting the timing of the Post story, which comes several weeks before the Dec. 12 special election. 

But the Senate candidate in an interview last week on Sean Hannity’s radio show admitted he may have dated girls in their late teens at that time in his life. Moore, however, said he did not “remember anything like that" and maintained that there was no inappropriate sexual behavior.

White House officials have also denounced Moore’s alleged behavior and said he should leave the race if the accusations are true — but insisted Moore has the right to defend himself.

“The president and others in the Republican Party have made clear that if the allegations are true, this man should step aside,” White House counselor Kellyanne Conway told ABC’s “This Week.”

“But I've gone farther than that, and I've reflected something the vice president said as well, which is everybody should know that conduct is disqualifying," she continued. "And Mr. Moore has denied that conduct. I think you've got other people out there talking about what did or did not happen many years ago.”

Marc Short, the White House director of legislative affairs, condemned individuals who sexually prey on children and said that Moore should leave the race if the allegations prove to be true.

“There’s no Senate seat more important than the notion of child pedophilia. But having said that, he has not been proven guilty, we have to afford him the chance to defend himself," Short told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) reiterated his calls for the GOP to stop supporting Moore and also suggested a write-in campaign, noting Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiKeeping Pruitt could cost GOP Congress, Trump in the fall Trump's plan to claw back spending hits wall in Congress GOP, Dem lawmakers come together for McCain documentary MORE (R-Alaska) won her seat in the upper chamber as a write-in candidate.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharSenate reaches deal on new sexual harassment policy Washington governor to make Iowa debut Senators near deal on sexual harassment policy change MORE (D-Minn.) during an appearance on “Meet the Press” noted that the Senate can expel a senator once he or she is seated in the chamber, but urged Alabama voters to consider backing Democrat Doug Jones, who was previously viewed as an underdog in the deep-red state’s race.

Polls since the Post story broke have indicated Jones may be closing the lead on Moore.

While Moore’s future in the race is uncertain, he has shown no signs that he will exit despite waning support from lawmakers who previously backed his bid.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee has pulled out from its joint fundraising agreement with the Alabama GOP and the Republican National Committee.

With one more month until the special election, the Alabama Republican may face an uphill battle should he continue to lose support from his party.

— Updated 2:34 p.m.