Steve Bannon to rally Alabama voters in support of Roy Moore

Published 8:01 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2017

By Steve Peoples | The Associated Press

BIRMINGHAM (AP) — Having declared war on the Republican establishment, populist firebrand Steve Bannon will rally Alabama voters Tuesday night alongside GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore even as new evidence of sexual misconduct surfaces against the nominee.

The former White House chief strategist is expected to attack the Washington Republicans who have said they believe Moore’s accusers, including two women who say Moore molested them when they were 14 and 16 and he was a deputy district attorney in his 30s. Moore, now 70, has denied the accusations.

Bannon’s appearance comes a week before the election as Moore and his allies fight to energize their supporters after a brief but ugly general election campaign. Many Washington Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, called on Moore to quit the race, though McConnell changed his rhetoric over the weekend to say Alabama voters should decide Moore’s fate. One Republican senator even donated to Moore’s opponent.

On Tuesday, McConnell said if Moore is elected, he would “immediately have an issue with the Ethics Committee” over the sexual misconduct allegations.

McConnell also told reporters that Moore would have to be sworn in if he wins, based on the 1969 Supreme Court ruling involving Democratic New York Rep. Adam Clayton Powell Jr. The House had refused to seat Powell after allegations of personal and financial misconduct. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor, saying the House acted unconstitutionally by not seating him.

Pushing back against Washington Republicans, President Donald Trump formally endorsed Moore on Monday and directed the Republican National Committee to send some assistance after withdrawing roughly a dozen staffers last month.

Bannon and Moore are scheduled to appear together in a dirt-floor barn deep in southwestern Alabama along the Mississippi border. It’s the same venue where Bannon appeared with Moore earlier in the year before he clinched the GOP nomination.

“For us, it’s big,” John Giles, who leads a pro-Moore super PAC, said of Bannon’s visit. “The only thing bigger than Bannon is Trump.”

Since being forced out of the White House in August, Bannon has resumed his leadership role at the pro-Trump Breitbart News and launched a broad campaign to take down establishment Republicans across the nation. He has vowed to defeat several Republican Senate incumbents in next year’s midterm elections because, in his view, they haven’t done enough to support Trump’s policies.

In Alabama, Bannon’s presence has less to do with Moore’s religious convictions than with their shared disdain for Washington Republicans. Moore’s brand is defined by his devotion to Christian values, but, like Bannon, he has promised to stand up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican who is deeply unpopular among many diehard Trump supporters.

While hardly a household name, Bannon will be welcomed in Alabama by a Moore campaign that has been aggressively shunned by his party’s biggest stars as the Dec. 12 special election approaches.

“Does Steve have 90 percent name ID? No. But people who like Steve are very passionate about liking Steve,” said Andy Surabian, senior adviser to the outside group Great America Alliance, which sometimes works with Bannon. “What Steve does is he motivates base voters to turn out, which is the entire key to this election.”

The day before Bannon’s appearance, the Washington Post reported new evidence of Moore’s pursuit of teenage girls decades ago. Moore has denied knowing any of the women, but one of them, Debbie Wesson Gibson, shared with the newspaper a card she said was signed by Moore congratulating her on graduating from high school.

Moore’s Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, said at a speech in Birmingham on Tuesday that Moore was an embarrassment to the state and would be a “disaster” for Alabama in Washington.

Referring to his own record as a former federal prosecutor, Jones said, “I damn sure believe that I have done my part to ensure that men who hurt little girls should go to jail and not the United States Senate.”

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., on Tuesday showed his opposition to Moore by donating to Jones’ campaign. He tweeted a picture of a $100 check that said in the memo, “Country over Party.”

Meanwhile, Moore continues to seek outside help in his bid to take the Senate seat once held by Republican Jeff Sessions, now U.S. attorney general, and represent Alabama in Washington through 2020.

As the campaign struggles to attract donations from traditional GOP donors, Great America Alliance invested $150,000 in a final-week advertising campaign that attacks Jones for his positions on abortion and immigration, among others.

The White House said Trump would not campaign in Alabama on Moore’s behalf, but he is scheduled to headline a campaign-style rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday, less than 20 miles (32 kilometers) from the Alabama border.

Associated Press writer Jay Reeves in Birmingham, Alabama, contributed to this report.