Republicans Are in a No-Win Situation with Moore

Reeling from allegations of child molestation and sexual conduct with teenagers by Senate candidate Roy Moore, the Alabama GOP is reportedly seeking ways to postpone the election:

Now, some in the GOP are determined to push Moore out of the Alabama race, however they can. Sources briefed on deliberations among those in Washington said that pushing the election date was one of several ideas, along with the possibility of endorsing a write-in candidate.

Governor Ivey is reportedly considering a delay, but wants to ensure support from President Donald Trump before doing so. She has been in touch with Nick Ayers, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff.

The governor has wide latitude to do so under the law, a fact that few dispute. But there’s a difference between what is possible and what is practical. After all, votes have already been cast in the current contest:

Ivey has already rescheduled the Senate race once before, after taking office in April as the replacement for Governor Robert Bentley, who stepped down following a sex and corruption scandal.

A delay in this case, however, might prove more difficult. Military members and absentee voters have already submitted ballots for the December election. Moore himself has insisted that he is staying in the race, even though several Republican lawmakers have called for him to step down.

Predictably and appropriately, Democrats are crying foul. The fact that Republicans have nominated such an offensive candidate so close to the election is their own fault. It’s not as if Moore didn’t already have a checkered and objectionable history before the latest allegations. It’s just that the GOP base didn’t care, and now they’re stuck with the consequences. Republicans have a number of unpalatable options now:

1) Throw their whole support behind Moore and allow the election to proceed as planned. The problems here are obvious: Moore is now an albatross around the neck not only of Alabama Republicans but the entire national party. If he wins, Republicans will be held accountable for him, but at least they can try to expel him from the Senate and replace him. If he loses to his Democratic opponent Doug Jones, Republicans will likely lose another crucial vote in a Senate that has already failed to produce signature legislation.

2) Drop support for Moore and essentially concede the election to Jones. Not only would this almost certainly doom Republican efforts at passing tax cuts, it would demoralize the Republican base in advance of the 2018 midterms.

3) Try to postpone the election in the hope that Moore can be forced out of the race in time to mount a credible write-in challenge. This is the option they’re currently examining. Hugh Hewitt is even floating the notion of canceling the election entirely, though that seems highly unlikely and would carry its own massive blowback.

Far be it from me to give Republicans advice, because if I were a Republican I would be with Jennifer Rubin and advocate starting over from the ground up. I would throw Moore to the dogs, toss Trump overboard, subvert Fox News and Breitbart, go into exile for a few years, concentrate on state and local elections, protect the decent incumbents, and wait for Democratic overreach while revamping the organization. Pigs will fly before that happens.

But this is the result of decades of pandering to the worst instincts of their base. When you lie down with dogs you get fleas.

 

David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.