Democrat Doug Jones pulled off a stunning victory on Tuesday’s senatorial race in Alabama, beating Republican Judge Roy Moore by roughly 20,000 votes and becoming the state’s first Democratic senator in two decades. The loss was a significant one for Republicans and for Trump. In one of his customary morning tweets, the president tried to disassociate himself from the defeat by insisting Moore had never been his preferred candidate.
After the Washington Post published a report of multiple sexual assault allegations — some which purportedly took place when the accusers were minors — against Moore in mid-November, a considerable number of Republicans rescinded their endorsements and asked him to step down from the race, arguing that the possible victory of an accused pedophile would do irreparable damage to their party’s image. One GOP senator, Jeff Flake of Arizona, publicly donated to Jones’ campaign in an attempt to make a statement against the senate hopeful.
Unlike those Republicans who took a stand against Moore, though, Trump officially endorsed the candidate a week before the election, praising his conservative pro-life, anti-gun control, “tough on crime and illegal immigration” agenda.
Yet on the morning following Moore’s loss, Trump attempted to do away with the idea that the election’s results should be considered a failure of his.
“The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election,” he wrote. “I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!”
The reason I originally endorsed Luther Strange (and his numbers went up mightily), is that I said Roy Moore will not be able to win the General Election. I was right! Roy worked hard but the deck was stacked against him!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2017
While it’s true that Trump did endorse junior Alabama Sen. Luther Strange over Roy Moore in August during the primaries, it wasn’t for the reason he’s now peddling. In fact, according to CNN, Trump supported Strange partly at the request of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and partly because he felt the need to repay the senator for his loyalty in pushing Trump’s agenda in the senate.
“Looking forward to Friday night in the Great State of Alabama,” he tweeted in September. “I am supporting ‘Big’ Luther Strange because he was so loyal & helpful to me!”
Looking forward to Friday night in the Great State of Alabama. I am supporting "Big" Luther Strange because he was so loyal & helpful to me!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2017
According to CNN’s sources, though, Trump was never enthusiastic about backing Strange, who he saw as being too “low energy” in addition to being an “establishment” politician. Trump reportedly felt even more doubts in his decision to back Strange after his former chief strategist Steve Bannon endorsed Moore and pushed him as the type of anti-establishment candidate typically associated with Trump’s political brand.
In a bizarre moment at a September rally for Strange, Trump admitted in his speech that endorsing him might have been a mistake. “I might have made a mistake and I’ll be honest I might have made a mistake,” he said to the crowd. “If Luther doesn’t win, they’re not going to say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time. They’re going to say Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line. It is a terrible, terrible moment for Trump. This is total embarrassment.”
After seemingly catching himself, he proceeded to praise Strange and insisting that he would “definitely win,” adding that Strange had a better shot at winning the general election than Moore.
Still, regardless of whether Trump originally wanted Moore to be the final candidate on Alabama’s ballot, the point is he still decided it was worth putting an accused pedophile in office in order to pass the GOP’s unpopular tax plan as well as the rest of his agenda. The moment he chose to back Moore is the moment he made the judge his candidate and therefore tied himself to Moore’s loss.