WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore on Monday, throwing his weight behind the embattled Alabama Republican before a special election next week that has been rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore.
The White House said Trump endorsed the campaign in a call to Moore. In a post on Twitter, the president said Republicans needed the former Alabama Supreme Court justice to win to secure votes on key issues such as taxes and immigration.
“Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama,” Trump wrote.
Moore thanked the president for his backing.
“I look forward to fighting alongside the President to #MAGA!” Moore said on Twitter, using Trump’s hashtag for his slogan “Make America Great Again.” In his tweet, Moore quoted Trump as saying, “Go get ‘em, Roy!”
Trump had supported Moore’s rival, U.S. Senator Luther Strange, in the Republican primary in September, in line with Senate Republicans.
He has slammed the Democratic candidate, former U.S. Attorney Doug Jones, as soft on crime and a potential puppet for Democratic leaders in Congress. On Monday, Trump said having a Democrat win the Dec. 12 election “would hurt our great Republican Agenda.”
The White House has said Trump would not campaign for Moore but he is scheduled to hold a rally on Friday in Pensacola, Florida, adjacent to Alabama.
The Alabama Republican Party also has backed Moore even as some Republicans in Congress have remained distant given the sexual misconduct allegations that surfaced last month. Moore has denied the allegations.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last month said he believed Moore’s accusers and joined other senators in urging him to quit the race. But on Sunday McConnell said it was up to Alabama voters to decide whether to send Moore to Washington.
“I’d have a real hard time voting for Roy Moore,” Republican U.S. Representative Matt Gaetz told CNN, calling the allegations against him very serious. But Alabama voters “very well may hold their nose and vote for” him rather than a Democrat.
Moore led Jones by six percentage points in a CBS News poll on Sunday, with most Alabama Republicans saying the allegations against him are false. A Washington Post poll last week showed Moore ahead by three percentage points, a lead within the survey’s 4.5 point margin of error.
Several women have accused Moore of sexual assault or misconduct when they were teenagers and Moore was in his early 30s. Reuters has not independently verified the reports.
Moore, 70, returned to the campaign trail last week calling the allegations against him “dirty politics.”
Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Toby Chopra and Bill Trott