Bannon welcomes Moore back to GOP fold at Alabama rally

FAIRHOPE, Ala. — Roy Moore is fully back in the Republican fold, and Steve Bannon was here Tuesday night to greet him.

Moore, the GOP’s candidate to replace Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the Senate, has faced multiple accusations of predatory sexual behavior aimed at young women and girls. (Moore has denied the allegations.) The National Republican Senatorial Committee, Republican National Committee and a slew of elected officials pulled their support.

Bannon held firm, and now President Donald Trump, the RNC and the GOP base are all back with the twice-ousted former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court.

At a rally here Tuesday in a barn at Oak Hollow Farm, in an affluent suburb on the eastern shore of the Mobile Bay, Bannon, Moore and a host of other staunch backers of the president took turns taking shots at the media, the GOP establishment, and Moore’s Democratic opponent, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones. The rally here was a replay of a rally Bannon and a host of other conservative figures held for Moore on the eve of the September runoff.

Both men delivered their standard pitches: Bannon’s speech, heavy on talk about rolling back free trade and restricting immigration, told the crowd they were leading a revolution. Moore delivered a speech heavy on religious rhetoric and social conservatism.

“They think you’re a bunch of rubes,” Bannon told the audience of 350 people. “They hold you in total contempt. It’s not Judge Moore they’re trying to shut up — it’s you.”

“We’ve got to go back to God,” Moore said, not long before reminding voters he was kicked off the state Supreme Court for refusing to obey federal court orders. “We’ve got to go back and restore the morality of this country.”

Moore’s brief exile ended Monday with an enthusiastic endorsement from Trump, who viewed the allegations against Moore as analogous to those from the slew of women who accused him of sexual assault last fall following the release of the "Access Hollywood" tape.

The RNC resumed backing Moore, sending along $50,000 to help the Alabama GOP with its get-out-the-vote efforts. But Trump and the RNC’s backing came only after it was clear the Republican base was standing with Moore the same way it stood by Trump a year ago.

Seventy-one percent of likely Republican voters in the race believe the allegations against Moore are false, according to a CBS News/YouGov poll released on Sunday morning, while just 17 percent believe the women who have accused him of preying on them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One woman accused Moore of initiating a sexual encounter with her when she was just 14. Moore has denied the accusations and said he’s never met his accusers.

Ninety-two percent of those who don’t believe the accusations in the CBS News poll said Democrats were responsible, while 88 percent blamed the media.

The poll found Jones leading Moore, 49 percent to 43 percent. Other recent public surveys have found a closer race, with some giving Jones the edge.

Bannon and Moore’s warm-up acts had subtle and not-so-subtle overtones: A bluegrass band performed a song about how Ten Commandments statues have disappeared from county courthouses, but “they can’t take the Ten Commandments out of the Bible or my heart.” The pastor who led the room in prayer thanked God for America’s guarantee that all men are innocent until proven guilty.

Another speaker denounced the “fake news” and “all the lies from The Washington Post.” The pastor who delivered the closing prayer said Moore was the victim of “a smear job concocted out of the pits of hell.”

The NRSC and Senate Republicans are still keeping their distance from Moore, but that didn’t appear to bother Moore’s supporters: There were as many attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell from the stage as on Jones. Bannon also spent as much time attacking retiring Arizona GOP Sen. Jeff Flake and former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who both said they couldn’t support Moore, as he did attacking Jones.

Bannon mocked Flake for writing a $100 check to support Jones: “Come on, brother, if you’re going to write a check, write a check.”

He attacked Romney for not serving in Vietnam: “You hid behind your religion. You went to France to be a missionary when guys were dying in rice paddies.”

Only after bashing Flake and Romney did Bannon find time to attack Jones as a “Clinton globalist.”

Jones, meanwhile, delivered what his campaign billed as a major address in Birmingham, and framed the election as a referendum on the allegations against Moore and whether Alabama would choose to embarrass itself and harm its economy.

“We need to look at this as parents, as grandparents, and not through the jaded lens of politics,” Jones said. “This is about decency and not a political party, and anyone who thinks otherwise should be ashamed. It is about the people of Alabama, the people of Alabama who will hold Roy Moore accountable. This is about Alabama’s honor and doing what is right.”

Jones delivered a series of broadsides against Moore: He said the former judge was “already an embarrassment to this state before” the sexual assault allegations. Jones noted he had never “lived off of donations to a so-called charitable foundation” and he promised: “When you see me with a gun, I will be climbing into a deer stand or a turkey blind, not prancing around on a stage in a cowboy outfit.”

Moore said Jones would be unable to represent Alabama voters on gun rights, abortion and opposition to transgender rights. And he said he understood neither party wanted him to win: “They don’t want me there. I know that.”

“‘They’re afraid I’m going to bring Alabama values to Washington,” Moore said at the end of his speech. “And I can’t wait.”

Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories