The winner of the Alabama GOP Senate runoff is almost certainly going to Washington next January. The winner of that contest will face Democratic incumbent Doug Jones who won a special election in 2018 when Republicans inexplicably stayed with a candidate who liked to fondle teenage girls. Alabama, the deepest of deep red states, won’t return Mr. Jones to Washington.
Pitted against each other are former college football coach Tommy Tuberville and former Senator and Trump Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Trump is strongly backing Tuberville who has a comfortable lead going into today’s runoff election. But Sessions is in full attack mode, going off against both Trump and Tuberville in a campaign that will almost certainly leave some bitter feelings in the Alabama Republican Party.
Instead of the pending matchup with Jones, the runoff has been defined by Trump’s continued ridicule of Sessions, who held the Senate seat for two decades before Trump plucked him out of the chamber to take over the Justice Department. But Sessions’ recusal from the investigation over Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, while praised by career prosecutors and ethics watchdogs, drew Trump’s ire — and Sessions never recovered in the president’s eyes.
“Jeff Sessions is a disaster who has let us all down,” Trump tweeted on Saturday, three days before Tuesday’s runoff. “We don’t want him back in Washington!”
Sessions fired back, calling the insults “juvenile” and reiterating his opinion that Tuberville was “too cowardly” to debate.
On Monday night, Trump reiterated his criticism of Sessions while praising Tuberville as a “true conservative.”
Trump called Tuberville a “true conservative” and a “really successful coach” and reiterated his endorsement. He also took Sessions to task once again. “I will tell you I got to know Jeff Sessions very well. I made a mistake when I put him in as the attorney general,” Trump said. “He had his chance and he blew it.”
After Tuberville narrowly edged out Sessions for first place in the March 3 primary, the runoff originally scheduled for the final day of March was postponed until mid-July. The change sapped Tuberville of the momentum from his primary victory and Trump’s endorsement a week later. It has also created an uncertain turnout environment, with several other competitive runoffs lower on the ballot. Low turnout could benefit Sessions, who’s been involved in the state’s politics for decades.
Tuberville has been content keeping his head down, his profile low, and his campaign appearances low-key. He’s letting Trump do all the heavy lifting, which is a good strategy if you’re far ahead.
Trump will apparently never forgive Sessions for his recusal in the Mueller case. As attorney general, Sessions took advantage of the “out” offered by recusal to avoid criticism from the growing pack of baying hounds calling for Trump’s head. Instead, he was praised by those same jackals for his “integrity.”
In Trump’s world, integrity doesn’t count as much as loyalty. Sessions may have, indeed, seen a conflict in serving the president and overseeing the Mueller investigation. Other AG’s may not have seen it the same way. But Trump wanted the Mueller investigation to go away and Sessions was not prepared to go that far in serving this president. That’s a capital offense according to Trump and most of his supporters, and it will cost Sessions his career.