Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table Senate GOP blocks defense bill, throwing it into limbo On The Money — Biden stresses calm amid omicron fears MORE (R-Ky.) signaled on Thursday that he and his allies will actively work to oppose Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreRoy Moore loses lawsuit against Sacha Baron Cohen Shelby backs ex-aide over Trump-favored candidate in Alabama Senate race Of inmates and asylums: Today's House Republicans make the John Birchers look quaint MORE's bid for Alabama's Senate seat after the conservative firebrand announced he was jumping into the race.
"We'll be opposing Roy Moore vigorously," McConnell told reporters after returning to the Capitol after a White House briefing on Iran.
McConnell's comments come after he warned, during an interview with the Associated Press shortly before Moore announced his bid, that he would "oppose him in every way."
Moore announced on Thursday afternoon that he would launch a bid for Alabama's Senate seat after previously winning the party's nomination in 2017, only to lose to now-Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) in a contentious special election.
His candidacy is a national nightmare for Republicans. They blame him for losing what they view as a safe GOP seat in a deeply red state that President TrumpDonald TrumpPence: Supreme Court has chance to right 'historic wrong' with abortion ruling Prosecutor says during trial that actor Jussie Smollett staged 'fake hate crime' Overnight Defense & National Security — US, Iran return to negotiating table MORE won easily in 2016.
Moore lost the race after facing multiple accusations of pursuing sexual and romantic relationships with teenage girls decades ago when he was in his 30s; he has denied any wrongdoing.
National outside groups allied with McConnell had previously indicated they were leaving the door open to working to make sure Moore doesn't win the party's nomination for a second time. McConnell's comments mark the clearest indication that national Republicans intend to try to stop any potential momentum for Moore.
Jack Pandol, a spokesman for the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, said Moore winning the GOP nomination "would be gift wrapping" the Senate seat for Democrats.
"We believe most Alabama Republicans realize that nominating Roy Moore would be gift wrapping this Senate seat for Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerLawmakers take aim at 'Grinches' using bots to target consumers during holidays Democratic frustration growing over stagnating voting rights bills Schumer mourns death of 'amazing' father MORE. It remains to be seen whether Moore can escape his baggage without his candidacy collapsing under its own weight," he added in a statement.
Sen. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyRepublicans struggle to save funding for Trump's border wall On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Trump seeking to oust Republican Alabama governor over canceled rally: report MORE (R-Ala.), who is close with McConnell, said on Thursday that Alabama "can do better" than Moore, who he warned wouldn't be "good" for the Republican Party.
"I don't think it would help the president. I don't think it would help anybody running. He would … take a lot of oxygen out of there," Shelby said.
Asked if he thought GOP groups should actively campaign against Moore, he added: "I think a lot of them will."
Moore ran against the national GOP establishment during his 2017 Senate bid, and argued on Thursday that they will try to "smear" him.
“Why is there such a fear, such an anger to somebody running?” Moore said. “The mere mention of my name causes people to get up and arms in D.C.”
Rebecca Kheel contributed.
Updated at 6:04 p.m.