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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 McConnellOvernight Health Care — Presented by Purdue Pharma — Trump says GOP will support pre-existing condition protections | McConnell defends ObamaCare lawsuit | Dems raise new questions for HHS on child separations Poll finds Dems prioritize health care, GOP picks lower taxes when it's time to vote The Hill's 12:30 Report — Mnuchin won't attend Saudi conference | Pompeo advises giving Saudis 'few more days' to investigate | Trump threatens military action over caravan 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 CassidyTrump signs bills banning drug pricing 'gag clauses' Dem ad accuses Heller of 'lying' about record on pre-existing conditions GOP senator suggests criminal referral for third Kavanaugh accuser's 'apparently false affidavit' 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 SessionsRosenstein to appear for House interview next week Emmet Flood steps in as White House counsel following McGahn departure McGahn departs as White House counsel 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 LeeSenators pledge action on Saudi journalist’s disappearance Bernie Sanders: US should pull out of war in Yemen if Saudis killed journalist Senators warn Trump that Saudi relationship is on the line MORE (R-Utah) and Steve DainesSteven (Steve) David DainesTrump administration could use military bases to export coal, gas McConnell: No one is going to beat Murkowski in Alaska Murkowski brushes off GOP backlash: 'I'm good with' Kavanaugh vote MORE (R-Mont.) had already revoked their endorsements of Moore on Friday.

Two other Republicans, Sens. Tim ScottTimothy (Tim) Eugene ScottOvernight Health Care — Presented by the Coalition for Affordable Prescription Drugs — Senators face Wednesday vote on Trump health plans rule | Trump officials plan downtime for ObamaCare website | Lawmakers push for action on reducing maternal deaths Bipartisan group of senators ask Trump to increase focus on maternal deaths 7 law enforcement officers shot in South Carolina MORE (S.C.) and Pat ToomeyPatrick (Pat) Joseph ToomeyOvernight Defense: Pick for South Korean envoy splits with Trump on nuclear threat | McCain blasts move to suspend Korean military exercises | White House defends Trump salute of North Korean general WH backpedals on Trump's 'due process' remark on guns Top GOP candidate drops out of Ohio Senate race 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 StrangeTrump: 'I could pick a woman,' and she could be accused of misconduct Ann Coulter believes Kushner wrote anonymous op-ed bashing Trump Mulvaney: Trump regularly asks why Roy Moore lost 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 MurkowskiEx-Florida lawmaker leaves Republican Party Murkowski not worried about a Palin challenge Flake on Kavanaugh confirmation: To see GOP 'spiking the ball in the end zone' doesn't seem right MORE (R-Alaska) won her seat in the upper chamber as a write-in candidate.

Sen. Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharIs there a difference between good and bad online election targeting? Election Countdown: Minnesota Dems worry Ellison allegations could cost them key race | Dems struggle to mobilize Latino voters | Takeaways from Tennessee Senate debate | Poll puts Cruz up 9 in Texas Clusters of polio-like illness in the US not a cause for panic 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.