MIDLAND CITY, Ala. — Alabama Republican Roy Moore rallied supporters in his final appearance before Tuesday’s special Senate election, defending himself from allegations of sexual misconduct at the end of a race that has gripped the nation’s attention.
On Monday night, Moore and his supporters packed into a refurbished wooden barn in the state’s southeast corner, where the former state Supreme Court chief justice saw huge margins while winning September’s GOP primary runoff against appointed Sen. Luther StrangeLuther Johnson StrangeThe biggest political upsets of the decade State ‘certificate of need’ laws need to go GOP frets over nightmare scenario for Senate primaries MORE. It’s here he hopes strong turnout will help push him over the edge in his race against Democrat Doug Jones.
“This election is for the people of Alabama. We are here to defend our rights and we will defend our rights,” he said.
“We talk about draining the swamp; I don’t know if you remember this, but it’s difficult to drain the swamp when you are up to your neck in alligators.”
The race has been thrust into uncertainty after recent accusations from women who claim Moore pursued them decades ago while they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. The most serious charges are from two women, one who claims Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old and another who says Moore touched her sexually when she was 14.
Moore dismissed the accusations from the stage, questioning why “women who had not come forward for nearly 40 years … waited until 30 days before this general election to come forward.”
“If you don’t believe in my character, don’t vote for me. The differences between my opponent and me are vast,” he said.
The friendly crowd cheered enthusiastically and broke out into chants as Moore spoke.
The rally brought together a group of allies who have all hunkered down to help Moore overcome the devastating accusations that have led many across the country to see the campaign as a referendum on the issue of sexual misconduct.
Former White House chief strategist and Breitbart News chief executive Stephen Bannon, Rep. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertConservative lawmakers press Trump to suspend guest worker programs for a year Gohmert rails against allowing proxy voting over ‘wishy washy’ fear of dying Positive coronavirus cases shake White House MORE (R-Texas) and former Milwaukee County sheriff and frequent Fox News guest David Clarke all took turns on the stage to fire up the crowd.
The speakers wove together a common thread, lauding Moore as beyond reproach despite the allegations, attacking those who chose to cut him loose and framing the race as a war on President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE’s agenda.
“It’s an up-or-down vote tomorrow between the Trump miracle and the nullification project,” Bannon said, describing the Democratic effort to push back on Trump’s agenda.
“This is greater than Judge Moore, it’s even greater than the people of Alabama. I know one thing — nobody comes down here and tells the people of Alabama what to do.”
Bannon went on to blast Republicans who have distanced themselves from Moore or Trump. He specifically called out Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote GOP senator to try to reverse requirement that Pentagon remove Confederate names from bases No, ‘blue states’ do not bail out ‘red states’ MORE (R-Ky.), as well as Sens. Richard ShelbyRichard Craig ShelbyHouse pushes back schedule to pass spending bills Top Republican says Trump greenlit budget fix for VA health care GOP senators not tested for coronavirus before lunch with Trump MORE (R-Ala.) and Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerGOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism Trump asserts his power over Republicans Romney is only GOP senator not on new White House coronavirus task force MORE (R-Tenn.), who have all criticized Moore’s candidacy.
Arguing that they have forsaken Trump, too, Bannon said, “There’s a special place in hell for Republicans who should know better.”
That also served as a jab at the president’s elder daughter, Ivanka Trump, who said after the allegations against Moore surfaced that there is a “special place in hell for people who prey on children.”
The allegations levied against Moore have become a pivot point in the race. Jones and his allies have devoted serious resources to advertisements amplifying the accusations and calling Moore a stain on the state.
And those accusations have reverberated in Moore’s own party, prompting serious criticism from Republican leaders including Shelby, the state’s senior senator, who during a Sunday interview with CNN refused to close the door on the Senate holding expulsion hearings if Moore is elected, something floated by other GOP senators as well.
But on Monday night, Moore allies took the stage to undercut the claims and what they called a rush to judgment.
Gohmert, a former state judge, criticized the quick prosecution in the court of public opinion. He evoked a story from his time on the bench when he ultimately handed down a death sentence.
“Even that guy I sentenced to death, I would have never forced him to trial in four weeks,” he said.
“If someone waits 38 years to bring the allegations that would destroy a person’s life, shouldn’t they have more than four weeks to defend themselves?”
One man who served alongside Moore in Vietnam called the allegations the “political equivalent of a Viet Cong ambush.” He went on to defend the candidate by telling a story about how Moore immediately left a brothel they unknowingly visited as soldiers upon realizing what it was.
“There were certainly pretty girls, they were girls. They were young, some of them were probably very young, I don’t know, I don’t remember that. I wasn’t there long enough,” the former soldier, Bill Staley, said.
“Roy said to me, ‘We shouldn’t be here. I’m leaving. … That was Roy — honorable, disciplined, morally straight and principled.”
Supporters packed in the front half of the hall, some holding handmade signs or “Make America Great Again” hats. Indicative of the candidate’s heavy focus on social issues such as abortion, as the crowd finished reciting the Pledge of Allegiance — “with liberty and justice for all” — one supporter shouted out, “Born and unborn!”
Dozens of reporters filled the second half of the hall, reflective of the national attention this race has received in recent weeks.
Outside, supporters who traveled from both elsewhere in Alabama and from states including Virginia sold Trump and Moore merchandise.
A plastic alligator sat in a makeshift swamp outside the door, below signs that read “Drain the Swamp.”
“I know his history, I know that what the press has done, the deep state, the press, the Democrats, have done to both Trump and anyone who votes his way,” said Jeanne Filkins, a resident of nearby Dothan who wore a Santa hat on which she had written “MAGA” in red marker.
“The Democrat is running a mean smear campaign. He’s a lawyer, that’s what they do,” responded Ted Crockett, a former Shelby County commissioner, when asked about how the accusations have shaped the race.
“He’s right on the issues, Roy Moore is. The issues of spending, illegal immigration, moral issues in this country, we need to stand for those and Roy Moore is strong on those issues.”
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