Alabama’s sitting Republican senator said he “would rather see the Republican win” on Tuesday to fill Jeff Sessions’ old seat, “but I would hope that Republican would be a write-in.”
Polls have been wildly divergent in the past few days, with an Emerson poll showing former judge Roy Moore up by 9 points and a Fox News poll showing Democratic challenger Doug Jones up by 10 points.
“I couldn’t vote for Roy Moore. I didn’t vote for Roy Moore. But I wrote in a distinguished Republican name. And I think a lot of people could do that. Will they do it? I’m not sure,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) told CNN on Sunday.
“I don’t know what is going to happen. You know, as a Republican, I had to vote Republican. I wanted to vote Republican,” he added. “I understand where the president’s coming from. I understand we would like to retain that seat in the U.S. Senate.”
Nine women have accused Moore of inappropriate sexual conduct or of trying to pursue a relationship when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One woman who was 14 years old at the time says Moore took her to his home, undressed her, touched her sexually and tried to get her to touch him. Moore has denied the accusations.
At first, the White House said if Moore was guilty then he should drop out. President Trump has since recorded a robo-call for the candidate and rallied for Moore on Friday across the state line in Pensacola, Fla. “We need somebody in that Senate seat who will vote for our make America great again agenda,” Trump said. “So, get out and vote for Roy Moore.”
Steve Bannon and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) are rallying for Moore in Midland City, Ala., tonight.
Shelby said that for him there was “a tipping point.”
“And I think so many accusations, so many cuts, so many drip, drip, drip, when it got to the 14-year-old story, that was enough for me. I said, I can’t vote for Roy Moore,” the senator said. “…The state of Alabama deserves better. I think we have got a lot of great Republicans that could have won and carried the state beautifully and served in the Senate honorably.”
“I think the women are believable. I have no reason not to believe them, just like the attorney general, Sessions, said he had no reason of something not to believe the women. They were credible,” he added. “But I wasn’t there. I don’t know what happened. But there’s a lot of stories there. There’s a lot of smoke. Got to be some fire somewhere.”
Shelby noted that Moore “has his own following, regardless of whether the president is involved or others,” and Tuesday “depends on the turnout, and go from there.”
“I think you will see all this play out. I believe, whether you are a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, whatever you are, that you would not put up with the conduct, bad conduct, from a Democrat or a Republican,” he said. “And that is going to part of what is going to happen in the future. The Senate is going to have to weigh, if Roy Moore wins, his fitness to serve in the U.S. Senate.”
Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) told NBC on Sunday that there “are a number of people in my party that are not” rooting for Moore, “including myself and many Republican senators.”
“The Constitution requires us to, A, if he wins — and still, A, if he wins — if he wins, we have to seat him. Then there will immediately be an ethics investigation. It will have a greater opportunity for us to look into all the issues, the allegations and perhaps even talk with some of the folks or witnesses that will give us a clearer picture,” Scott said.
“I’ve always said that so far as far as I can tell, the allegations are significantly stronger than the denial and I’m going to let my decision to be made by the breadth of information and evidence that I’m able to review during that process.”