Over the last month, Donald Trump has done more to advance the cause of the Republican establishment than he ever has before: campaigning for Mitch McConnell’s chosen candidate.
But that effort, and all the prestige of the president, seems likely to come up short on Tuesday night in Alabama’s special election primary.
On Tuesday night, Sen. Luther Strange — the man appointed to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ — will square off against Roy Moore, the nationally controversial former state supreme court justice.
If the polling is accurate, Moore is expected to win.
The winner of Tuesday’s contest will face Democrat Doug Jones, a former US attorney, in a special election in December.
Moore has the unique history of being removed from the state supreme court not once but twice: first, over his refusal to remove a monument to the Ten Commandments on public land despite a federal court; and second, when he refused to enforce federal rulings on marriage equality. He’s also become known over the years for his complaints that the United States has “legalized sodomy” and for suggesting that 9/11 might have been a punishment for turning away from Christianity.
In the weeks before the runoff, the Breitbart universe rallied behind Moore, the anti-establishment candidate with a strong built-in base of support in the state. Over the last week, Steve Bannon, Sarah Palin, Brit Nigel Farage, and Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson all rallied behind Moore.
Republicans poured money, time, and the imprimatur of presidential endorsement behind Strange, whose time as attorney general in the state during a scandal dogged him throughout the campaign. Still, Republicans prioritized the race specifically with the idea of keeping enough party-line voters in the Senate as the White House tries to advance an agenda on health care and taxes.
Trump himself campaigned for Strange in Alabama last week in a state where the president remains popular. (The news out of the rally, of course, ended up being a lot more about NFL protests than Strange’s candidacy.) Vice President Mike Pence, too, campaigned with Strange.
“Luther Strange is a real conservative,” the vice president told the several hundred in the audience. “He’s a leader. He’s been a real friend to President Trump. So I’ve got to tell you, Big Luther is making a big difference in Washington, DC, and he’s just getting started.”