U.S. News

Roy Moore campaign casts Alabama race as referendum on Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The campaign of Roy Moore, the Republican candidate for U.S. senator in Alabama who has been accused of sexual misconduct, appealed on Sunday to President Donald Trump’s supporters, saying a vote for Moore would be a vote for Trump’s agenda.

In the final days before Tuesday’s special election, opinion polls show a tight race between Moore, a 70-year-old conservative Christian and former state judge, and Democrat Doug Jones, a 63-year-old former U.S. attorney.

Dean Young, chief political strategist for Moore, cast Jones as a liberal who would vote against Trump’s priorities such as building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and cutting taxes.

“If the people of Alabama vote for this liberal Democrat Doug Jones, they’re voting against the president who they put in office at the highest level,” Young told ABC’s “This Week.” “So it’s very important for Donald Trump. ... If they can beat him, they can beat his agenda, because Judge Moore stands with Donald Trump and his agenda.”

Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct toward women when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, including one woman who said he tried to initiate sexual contact with her when she was 14.

Moore has denied the misconduct allegations and said they were a result of “dirty politics.” He has said that he never met any of the women involved. Reuters has not independently verified any of the accusations.

As the race tightens, Jones has cranked up his attacks on Moore over the allegations and made those charges central to his argument that Moore is an unsuitable choice.

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The effort by the Moore campaign to align itself as closely as possible with Trump raises the stakes for the president in the Alabama race.

Trump has endorsed Moore and praised him on Friday at a rally in Pensacola, Florida, near the Alabama state line. The president’s support of Moore came despite efforts by other senior Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to distance themselves from Moore.

Alabama voters went strongly for Trump in last year’s presidential election, favoring him by 62 percent to 34 percent over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Washington has been roiled by sexual misconduct scandals, with accusations leading to the resignations last week of three members of Congress.

The growing wave of women reporting abuse or misconduct has brought down powerful men, from movie producer Harvey Weinstein to popular television personality Matt Lauer.

Republican leaders have said that if Moore wins, he could face an immediate investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Republican Richard Shelby, the senior U.S. senator from Alabama, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he did not vote for Moore and instead backed a write-in candidate.

The editorial board of the website, which covers Alabama news, has endorsed Jones. In an editorial on Sunday, the website urged conservative voters in Alabama to follow Shelby’s lead and consider a write-in candidate if they did not want to vote for Jones.

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Caren Bohan and Peter Cooney