GOP strategist: Alabama Republicans need to 'gather around' candidate who 'is not Roy Moore'

Republican strategist Gustavo Portela said the 2020 Alabama Senate race is an “important opportunity” for the GOP to start supporting an alternative candidate to Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Alabama senator says Trump opposed to Sessions Senate bid The Hill's Morning Report - 2020 jitters hit both parties in the Senate MORE, even though a new poll shows the former state Supreme Court Chief Justice is leading the field of potential candidates.

“It an important opportunity for Republicans to gather around a Republican candidate that is not Roy Moore early on,” Portela, executive director of Accuracy in Media, told Hill.TV on Wednesday.

Portela made clear he does not personally support Moore, calling him the “scum of the Earth,” and said Moore isn’t the only one who can beat Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the deep-red state.

“I, as a Republican, do not want to see him running, but here we are,” Portela said.

When reached for comment, Moore responded with a statement saying: "For 'Republican strategist' Gustavo Portela to refer to me as 'scum of the earth' shows the depths to which our political system has deteriorated, and the animosity of the Washington Establishment who fear the truth about God and the Constitution, for which I stand."

He went on to say the "false allegations" against him are "the same weapon" that was used against Justice Brett KavanaughBrett Michael KavanaughThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Susan Collins raises M in second quarter fundraising, surpassing 2014 reelection bid The Hill's Campaign Report: Democratic infighting threatens 2020 unity MORE, Justice Clarence Thomas and President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE and "will be used against anyone else who opposes the liberal Washington DC agenda."

Shortly before the 2017 election, Moore faced multiple allegations that he harassed or pursued women who were in their teens when he was in his 30s. He denied the allegations.

According to a survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Strategy Inc., Moore leads potential GOP candidates, with 27 percent of the vote.

Among the would-be GOP candidates included in the poll, only Rep. Bradley ByrneBradley Roberts ByrneThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Alabama senator says Trump opposed to Sessions Senate bid The Hill's Campaign Report: Debate puts Biden on the defensive MORE (R-Ala.) has formally announced a Senate bid. He received support from 13 percent of respondents in the survey.

Portela downplayed the significance of Moore’s early lead.

“Polling-wise you never want to look good early,” he told Hill.TV.

Moore, who lost to Jones during a special election in 2017, has not made an official announcement on whether he will jump in the 2020 race. But he has said he hasn’t ruled out another Senate bid, arguing the previous race was “stolen” from him.

“I’m seriously considering it. I think that [the 2017 Senate race] was stolen,” Moore told the Christian program “Focal Point” last month.

Jones has already stated that he would welcome a rematch with Moore. The Alabama Democrat told Politico in a February interview that if Moore thinks the 2017 race was unfair, he should run again.

“If he really believes that and if the Republican Party really believes that then they all ought to just step aside, have a press conference with him and let's just do it again," Jones said.

—Tess Bonn