In the last few days before the Dec. 12 election for Alabama’s junior U.S. Senate seat, the Republican candidate has all but vanished from the public.
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Things seem to be going Roy Moore’s way. President Trump endorsed him. The Republican National Committee is back to supporting him. And Moore, who has been accused of sexual contact with women when they were underaged, has led by an average of 3 percentage points in polls taken within 21 days of the Dec. 12 […]
Near the end of a press conference for Roy Moore Thursday, a reporter asked a question: Where was Roy Moore?
Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks at a news conference, Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) (Photo: Brynn Anderson, AP)
“He’s campaigning,” said Ben DuPre, a longtime Moore associate and spokesman for the campaign. “He’s campaigning hard.”
If Moore is doing that, he’s keeping it a secret.
In the last few days before the Dec. 12 election for Alabama’s junior U.S. Senate seat, the Republican candidate has all but vanished from the public, continuing a pattern of absence that took hold after allegations of abuse, assault, harassment and misconduct with nine women surfaced against Moore in early November.
“I think it’s extremely odd that for the better part of that campaign, we have seen his spokespeople, his campaign manager and his surrogates,” said Angi Horn Stalnaker, a Republican consultant who has run races against Moore in the past.
Moore has a rally scheduled Monday night in Dale County in the Wiregrass – a region key to his chances – with former Donald Trump adviser Steve Bannon and U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. But the Republican candidate has held no public events since a rally in Fairhope on Tuesday, leaving appearances to staff and surrogates. Moore has made fewer than 10 public appearances in the past month.
The Moore campaign said Saturday morning the former Alabama chief justice had no events planned for that day, and it is not clear if he will make any appearances before the Midland City rally. The campaign did not respond to questions Saturday about Moore’s whereabouts or what he has been doing since Tuesday.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Doug Jones speaks at historic Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma, Ala. on Saturday December 9, 2017. (Photo: Mickey Welsh / Advertiser)
Although Friday’s winter weather scrambled both campaigns’ plans, Moore’s absence from the trail is a notable contrast to Democratic nominee Doug Jones, whose campaign said Saturday he had done 217 public events over two months, and who has done almost daily appearances in the campaign’s last weeks. Jones made an appearance in Selma on Saturday afternoon and was scheduled to appear at Alabama State University in Montgomery on Saturday evening.
The campaign was also mounting get out the vote concerts Saturday, featuring St. Paul and the Broken Bones in Birmingham and Jason Isbell in Huntsville.
“I don’t know what day we’re in now that Roy Moore is in hiding,” Jones was quoted saying in Selma Saturday afternoon.
Whether the absence has any effect on Moore’s chances remains to be seen. The Real Clear Politics polling average Saturday found Moore up 3.8 points over Jones, and no Democrat has won a statewide election in Alabama since 2008.
“The Moore campaign is more worried about their base than persuading any new voters at this point,” said Lance Hyche, a Republican consultant. “They’re probably in the same school as President Trump. He spends a lot of time worrying about his base.”
David Mowery, a Montgomery political consultant who managed Democrat Bob Vance’s campaign against Moore in 2012, said Saturday that Moore might be running a variation of a “front porch” campaign, perhaps a sign they feel in the lead.
“When you’re ahead, or you’re the perceived favorite, why give your opponent a chance to ding you?” he said. “It’s kind of smart, and we’re being swarmed by national media.”
But Moore and his campaign also have to account for allegations that he pursued relationships with teenagers during his time as an assistant district attorney in Etowah County from 1977 to 1982, ranging from unwanted attention to groping to assault.
Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore speaks at a campaign rally, Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, in Fairhope, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) (Photo: Brynn Anderson, AP)
One woman, Leigh Corfman, says she was 14 when Moore, then 32, took her to his home, undressed her and guided her hand in front of his underpants. Another woman, Beverly Nelson, says Moore groped her in a car when she was 16 and tried to pull her head down toward his lap.
Moore denies the charges – while moving from saying he knew some of the accusers to denying ever knowing any of them – and has claimed media outlets or politicians in Washington are trying to derail his campaign. The campaign has also challenged a yearbook signature Nelson says Moore left before the attack and demanded independent testing of it.
Nelson on Friday acknowledged writing notes under the signature but says the signature and inscription are genuine. Nelson’s attorney, Gloria Allred, said at a Friday press conference an independent expert verified the signature.
The women have stuck by their stories, and Nelson and Gloria Deason, who says she dated Moore when she was 17 and he was 34, say they are willing to testify under oath.
At an appearance in Birmingham Nov. 16 – his first since the Washington Post broke the story about the first allegations – Moore left a room as reporters asked questions. Moore’s subsequent appearances have mostly occurred at churches or religious gatherings. He has not taken questions at those events.
Democratic pollster Zac McCrary of Anzalone Liszt Grove in Montgomery said Saturday Moore “has not fared well” when he’s the focus of attention.
“Perhaps it’s an acknowledgment some of these people coming into the state, the Steve Bannons of the world, are better candidates,” he said.
Instead, Moore surrogates, including Dupre, campaign chairman Bill Armistead; Ohio anti-abortion activist Janet Porter; Dean Young and Philip Jauregui have spoken on his behalf. Trump held a rally in Pensacola on Friday night in which he briefly urged Alabamians to vote for Moore.
Some observers wondered if the choice showed a concern about the candidate.
“To me, it appears as though the staff and donors and whoever’s behind campaign are either more interested in getting publicity for themselves, or they don’t trust what he’s going to say in public,” Stalnaker said.
Former Alabama Chief Justice and U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore waits to speak at a news conference Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017, in Birmingham, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) (Photo: Brynn Anderson, AP)
Hyche said the latter could be a factor. “Moore on the campaign trail could probably do more harm than good,” he said.
The consultant – who believes Moore will win Tuesday – said Jones was “doing what he needs to be doing” in trying to build a winning coalition, though Stalnaker said she was surprised Jones wasn’t doing more with Moore’s absence.
“I would be running ads and commercials, putting out an Amber Alert, (saying) where is he,” she said. “Where’s Roy? That’s not what they’ve chosen to do.”
McCrary said it could be an opportunity for Jones.
“If Roy Moore is content to cede the campaign trail to Doug Jones over the final 72 hours, that’s probably a gift horse Doug Jones shouldn’t look in the mouth,” he said.
Mowery was less certain, saying it was an opportunity, but that weather and the distractions of the Christmas season could erode that.
“I’m just not sure how many people care right now, in terms of ‘Oh, I need to go out and be at a rally,'” he said. “I’d love to know the numbers on the Jason Isbell concert.”