The Alabama Republican primary is on Tuesday and while most of the attention will be given to Democratic presidential candidates fighting for Super Tuesday delegates. most Alabamans will be watching the Republican Senate primary, where former Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions is looking to return to office following his forced resignation from the Trump administration.
Sessions held the seat for 20 years and became the first senator to endorse Donald Trump for president. He resigned to become AG but found himself the target of Trump’s wrath when he recused himself from the Russian investigation. This handed former FBI Director James Comey and the Democrats a clear path to pretty much investigate whatever and whoever they wanted.
While some might see Sessions’ recusal as an act of integrity, most Trump supporters don’t see it that way. And since Alabama is wild for Trump and among one of his most supportive states in the union, Sessions isn’t the shoo-in he might have thought he’d be.
Whoever wins the Republican primary will be the odds-on favorite to defeat the incumbent Democrat, Doug Jones, who voted for convicting the president during the Senate trial.
But none of the six candidates running will get a majority, which means a run-off between the top two vote-getters will be held on March 31. The only poll was from early in February and it showed Sessions leading the pack with 31 percent of the vote. He was followed closely by Tommy Tuberville, the former Auburn football coach with 29 percent. Rep. Bradley Byrne had 17 percent.
But Alabama Republicans are having a hard time forgetting Sessions displeasing Trump. Indeed, all the candidates are vying to prove to the voters who has the most Trump-love.
The race to be among the top two has intensified as Sessions, Tuberville, and Byrne clash over their devotion to Trump, accusing their rivals of wavering in their support to the president.
Sessions released a TV ad, titled “Desperate Attacks,” that said Byrne “stabbed Trump in the back” when he called for Trump to step aside after the release of the Access Hollywood tape where Trump was heard making vulgar remarks about women.
“Senator Sessions has made it very clear that he’s absolutely supportive of President Trump,” Gail Gitcho, an adviser to Sessions, told the Washington Examiner.
In one of his ads, Tuberville tore into Byrne for calling Trump “unfit” to be president and said Sessions “deserted President Trump, sticking us with the Russian witch hunt.”
“Weak-kneed career politicians aren’t strong enough to stand” with Trump, Tuberville said on Twitter.
Trump has not expressed a preference for a primary winner, but what will he do for the run-off contest? If it’s Sessions vs. Tuberville or Byrne, will Trump’s gratitude for Sessions’ early support offset his anger at the former attorney general?
Trump has shown in the past that he can forgive and forget — for a while anyway. He forgave Ted Cruz his opposition during the campaign and even made peace with Mitt Romney until the Utah senator voted to allow witnesses at the impeachment trial.
Even silence from Trump would speak volumes to Alabama voters who would interpret the president’s lack of an endorsement of Sessions as disapproval. But whatever Trump does, Alabama voters will make their own judgment on the loyalty for Trump from all the candidates — including Jeff Sessions.