Donald Trump could finally hold back no longer.
After weeks of refraining from interfering in the Alabama GOP Senate primary, the president on Tuesday evening tweeted his official support of Tommy Tuberville — a stinging blow to Trump’s former attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
“Tommy Tuberville is running for the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Alabama,” Trump tweeted around 9 p.m. “Tommy was a terrific head football coach at Auburn University. He is a REAL LEADER who will never let MAGA/KAG, or our Country, down!
“Tommy will protect your Second Amendment….(which is under siege), is strong on Crime and the Border, and truly LOVES our Military and our Vets. He will be a great Senator for the people of Alabama. Coach Tommy Tuberville, a winner, has my Complete and Total Endorsement. I love Alabama!”
The endorsement of a Republican president in a Republican primary is almost always important, but it is particularly impactful in this race.
For the past year, the candidates in the GOP primary have made the race all about who is most like Trump, who supports the Trump agenda more and which one Trump would endorse. The candidates have rarely spoken of anything else, ignoring pressing issues such as rural health care and rising poverty rates.
Now that Trump has made his endorsement, it will be interesting to see how Sessions pivots away from such tactics.
Trump’s endorsement likely didn’t come Tuesday by chance. Earlier in the day, a number of news outlets around the state reported on poll numbers showing Tuberville with a 12-point advantage in the runoff. Sessions’ campaign criticized that poll’s “skewed questions” and countered later in the day with internal polling that showed the race tighter.
The White House apparently believed the Tuberville numbers.
Trump’s endorsement of Tuberville also isn’t a surprise. He has made quite clear his disdain for Sessions, whom he blamed for allowing the Mueller investigation to start. Trump has been ruthless in his putdowns of his former AG, and yet Sessions, who held the Senate seat he is now trying to reclaim for 20 years, has groveled and insisted that he loves Trump and supports him more than anyone else.
Tuberville, in the meantime, has run the same sort of shallow, shock-and-awe campaign that worked for Trump — leaning on being a political outsider and saying shocking, often offensive things to draw in conservative voters. At the same time, he has avoided offering a specific plan to address any issue that plagues the state, or even explaining how he might help Trump implement his agenda. And there appears to be no plan at all should Trump lose the 2020 presidential election.