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GOP leadership in Washington skeptical of Moore’s campaign

Mitch McConnell speaks at a conference
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference. (Gage SKidmore/Flikr)

On Thursday, former Chief Justice Roy Moore announced he is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones.

The Senate Leadership Fund released a statement after the announcement that Moore would mount another campaign in Alabama.

“We believe most Alabama Republicans realize that nominating Roy Moore would be gift wrapping this Senate seat for Chuck Schumer,” said SLF Communications Director Jack Pandol. “It remains to be seen whether Moore can escape his baggage without his candidacy collapsing under its own weight, regardless of what groups on the outside do.”

Rather than staying out of the GOP primary race and letting Alabama Republicans pick their own nominee without Washington interference, GOP insiders vowed to get actively involved in the race.

“We’ll oppose him in every way,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, told reporters.

“The people of Alabama are smarter than that,” said Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colorado. “They certainly didn’t choose him last time; why would they choose him this time?”

“The people of Alabama rejected Roy Moore just a few months ago,” said Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, who now chairs the powerful National Republican Senate Committee. “And I don’t see that anything has changed.”

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“Republicans cannot allow themselves to again lose the Senate seat in the Great State of Alabama,” said President Donald Trump on Twitter last month. “This time it will be for Six Years, not just Two.”

“I have NOTHING against Roy Moore, and unlike many other Republican leaders, wanted him to win,” Trump added. “But he didn’t, and probably won’t. If Alabama does not elect a Republican to the Senate in 2020, many of the incredible gains that we have made during my Presidency may be lost, including our Pro-Life victories.”

Former State Rep. Perry Hooper Jr., R-Prattville, sits on the President’s National Trump Victory Finance Committee and was chair of his 2016 Victory Fund.

Hooper told the Alabama Political Reporter, ““It is a free country, He has every right to run again. I just wish that Roy had honored the President of the United States’ wishes and not run.”

Moore responded to the criticism at his news conference in Montgomery on Thursday.

“Why such hatred and opposition to somebody who is running?” Moore said. “Is it because I am such a staunch conservative? Is it because I believe in God and morality? Is that an embarrassment to them? Or is it because I am such a strong constitutionalist?

Sen. Rick Scott, R-South Carolina, and Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, both said they have talked with former Sen. Jeff Sessions about running again for his old seat.

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Shelby said if Sessions runs again, it “would clear the field.”

The Alabama Political Reporter asked Moore if he would get out of the race if Sessions were to get in.

“I will be in this race regardless of who is running in this race because it is up to the people of Alabama not about people getting in and not about pollsters in Washington, not about people from government or whatever.” Judge Moore said. “I think the people of Alabama know me and know what I stand for.”

“I think President Trump has every right to voice his opinion,” Moore said when asked about Trump’s opposition.” I think he is being pushed by the NRSC. In fact, there was an article I read where a spokesman for the NRSC approached him.”

“I don’t know what he is thinking,” Moore continued. “I can’t speak for him, but I can see that I don’t disagree with him on a lot of his policies, especially on border security.”

Jones called Moore an “extremist” in a statement on Thursday and predicted that he will face either an extremist, like Moore, or Mitch McConnell’s handpicked candidate in the general election. Jones does not have a Democratic primary opponent at this point.

The Republican primary will be on March 3.

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(Original reporting by the Hill, Fox News, The Washington Post and the Guardian contributed to this report.)

Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.

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