Politics

Analysis: Bannon Isn’t the Only One to Blame for Moore’s Loss

McConnell’s support for Strange, governor’s sex scandal, and moving election date all played a part

Steve Bannon arrives for Roy Moore’s “Drain the Swamp” campaign rally in Midland City, Ala., on Monday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore’s shocking loss to Sen.-elect Doug Jones led multiple Republicans to blame former White House political adviser Steve Bannon. 

Drudge Report publisher Matt Drudge tweeted on Wednesday that “Luther Strange would have won in a landslide,” referring to the former Alabama attorney general who was appointed to fill the seat that Jeff Sessions vacated to become President Donald Trump’s attorney general.

Josh Holmes, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, tweeted that the chairman of Breitbart News showed how to lose “the reddest state in the Union.”

But it was the second part of Holmes’ tweet blaming Alabama’s Republican Gov. Kay Ivey that also shows that there are more Republicans who share some blame for the rise of Moore, including Holmes’ former boss.

Controversy surrounded Strange after he reportedly told Alabama’s state House of Representatives to call off its investigation of Gov. Robert Bentley, who was enmeshed in a sex scandal.

Bentley would eventually resign for using government money to cover up his affair, but not before appointing Strange to the Senate seat.

Strange’s appointment by a disgraced governor made him tainted in the eyes of many Alabama Republican voters. 

Holmes’ desire to blame Ivey likely lies in the fact she shifted the special election date that Bentley set from November 2018 to this month, which she said was an attempt to follow state law. 

But Ivey and Bentley are not the only Republicans to share blame for Moore becoming the GOP candidate. 

McConnell understandably wanted to protect the incumbent Strange.

But instead of opening fire on Moore, who had gained prominence with social and religious conservatives after his two removals from the state’s Supreme Court, the McConnell-affiliated Senate Leadership Fund mainly focused its resources on attacking Rep. Mo Brooks, who was also running for the Senate seat. 

In ads across the state, Brooks faced criticism for being insufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump, while Brooks played up his allegiance to the president and focused most of his attention on Strange, whose appointment to the seat he characterized as political payoff by a corrupt governor. 

Brooks finished third in the primary, leaving Moore and Strange to face each other in the runoff. Brooks threw his support behind Moore

Moore had statewide name recognition and a solid base of Christian conservatives after his refusal to remove a monument of the Ten Commandments and his subsequent removal from office for after he advised probate judges to not the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage.

Despite the fact Strange painted himself as a supporter of President Donald Trump’s agenda and having Trump campaign for him before the runoff primary, all of these factors decreased Strange’s likelihood of survival.

While Bannon campaigned for Moore, he jumped in only toward the end of the Republican primary runoff in September with Moore already comfortably ahead in polls.

After Strange’s loss, Moore was invited to the Republican caucus’ luncheon in October, showing the party embraced him.

While it is true that Bannon went all in with Moore and did defend him as allegations of his inappropriate sexual contact with teenage girls poured in, by that point Moore had already had a solid base of support among many Republicans.

But Sen. Richard Shelby, who was the last Democrat to be elected to the Senate from the state before he switched parties, hit the talks shows over the weekend and into Monday, telling CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday “when it got to the 14-year-old’s story, that was enough for me. I said I can’t vote for Roy Moore,” saying that he wrote-in a “distinguished Republican” who he wouldn’t identify.

Jones in turn used Shelby’s words in ads and a robocall leading up to Tuesday.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.