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 MooreVulnerable Senate Democrat urges unity: 'Not about what side of the aisle we're on' Sessions hits back at Trump days ahead of Alabama Senate runoff Judge allows Roy Moore lawsuit over Sacha Baron Cohen prank to proceed 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 KavanaughSenate Democrats' campaign arm announces seven-figure investment to boost Graham challenger Gideon leads Collins by 12 points in Maine Senate race: poll Conservatives see glaring omission on Trump's Supreme Court shortlist MORE, Justice Clarence Thomas and President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president's policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is 'unwise' Cast of 'Parks and Rec' reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response 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 ByrneBottom line Jerry Carl wins GOP Alabama runoff to replace Rep. Bradley Byrne Jeff Sessions loses comeback bid in Alabama runoff 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