Alabama Republicans plan to vote for Roy Moore despite allegations What's Your Point? December 1

- President Donald Trump is trying to push embattled GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore across the finish line in Tuesday's election in Alabama by contending the Democratic nominee would oppose "what we must do" for the nation.

This week's panel: Bob Price - Associate Editor Breitbart Texas, Nyanza Moore - progressive commentator and Houston attorney, Tony Diaz- Chicano educator and activist, Marcus Davis - host of "Sunday Morning Live",  Jared Woodfill, conservative attorney, and Jessica Colon - Republican strategist.discuss the controversial Alabama election

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Most Republican leaders in Alabama say they plan to vote for Roy Moore on Tuesday, despite sexual misconduct allegations against the former judge that have prompted others around the country to say he should never be allowed to join the U.S. Senate.

"I have stated both publicly and privately over the last month that unless these allegations were proven to be true I would continue to plan to vote for the Republican nominee, Judge Roy Moore," Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill wrote in a text message to The Associated Press. "I have already cast my absentee ballot and I voted for Judge Moore."

The accusations against Moore have left many GOP voters and leaders in a quandary. Voters face the decision of whether to vote for Moore, accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers decades ago when he was a county prosecutor, or sending Democrat Doug Jones to Washington, which would narrow the GOP's already precarious majority in the Senate.

They also could write in a name on their ballots or simply stay home. Meanwhile, most GOP politicians in the state must run for re-election next year - where they will face Moore's enthusiastic voting base at the polls.

The AP tried to find out how Republican leaders from Alabama plan to vote. Most officeholders or their staffs responded, while others have publicly stated their plans during public appearances or to other media outlets.

However, several officeholders did not respond to calls, emails or texts from the AP. They include U.S. Reps. Martha Roby, Mike Rogers and Gary Palmer, as well as state Treasurer Young Boozer and state House Speaker Mac McCutcheon.

State officeholders who said they intended to vote for Moore often cited the need to keep the seat in Republican hands.

In addition to Merrill, others who plan to vote for Moore include Gov. Kay Ivey; Attorney General Steve Marshall; state Auditor Jim Zeigler; Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan; state Senate President Pro Tempore Del Marsh; and Public Service Commissioner Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, who previously led the state GOP. Also voting for Moore are current state party head Terry Lathan and U.S. Reps. Mo Brooks of Huntsville and Robert Aderholt of Haleyville.

The state's most influential politician, Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, has said he wrote in a prominent Republican on his absentee ballot.

"I wrote in a distinguished Republican. I did not vote for Judge Moore, but I voted Republican," Shelby said. His decision has played prominently in Jones ads pointing out Republicans who are not voting for their party's nominee.

CNN reported last month that U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne said he will vote Republican and that he does not cast write-in votes. In a statement to the AP, Byrne said it is up to voters to decide.

"Some serious allegations have been made and Judge Moore has vehemently denied them. Frankly, I don't think the people of Alabama want me, any national politician, or the national news media telling them what to think or how to vote," Byrne said in the statement. "The decision is ultimately up to the people of Alabama to evaluate the information they have before them and make an informed decision. We must respect the voters' decision."

Sen. Luther Strange, who lost to Moore in the Republican primary, did not respond to a request for comment from AP, but told The Washington Post recently that the election is up to voters.

"I'm staying out of it now. I think everybody knows how I feel about Judge Moore. We made our case and the voters made a different decision," Strange told the newspaper in a video on its website.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who resigned from the Senate to join the Trump administration, declined to say how he would vote. Moore and Jones are competing for his old job.

"There have been some ads that may have suggested I endorsed a candidate, that is not so," Sessions said. "I believe that the people of Alabama will make their own decision."

State party loyalty rules could prohibit a GOP politician, or someone who aspires to be one, from publicly backing Moore's opponent. The rule says anyone who openly supports another party's nominee over a Republican could be barred from running as a Republican in the future.

Ivey became governor earlier this year after Robert Bentley resigned amid a sex scandal involving a much younger female political aide. When reached by the AP, Bentley declined to say who he is voting for Tuesday.

Ivey said last month that she has no reason to disbelieve the women who have accused Moore and is bothered by their allegations. But Ivey, who plans to run for governor in 2018, said she will vote for Moore anyway for the sake of GOP power in Congress. Her office did not respond to a request for an updated comment.

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump gave embattled GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore a vigorous formal endorsement Monday, looking past allegations of sexual misconduct with Alabama teenagers as Republican leaders in Washington, once appalled by Moore's candidacy, began to come to grips with the ever-clearer possibility of his victory.

Buoyed by the taste of his own success in Congress as the Republican tax bill inches closer to passage, Trump telephoned Moore to offer encouragement as well as support and also argued in a pair of tweets that Moore's vote was badly needed to push the president's policies forward. The Republican National Committee quickly followed suit, announcing they were returning the support they had pulled last month.

In addition, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who was initially among several national Republicans to urge Moore to drop out of the race, said Sunday it was up to Alabama voters to decide whether the former state Supreme Court chief justice should be elected.

Weeks ago, when accusations of sexual misconduct with teenagers first surfaced, Trump's spokesman had said the president believed Moore would "do the right thing and step aside" if the allegations were true.

Top Republicans vowed to expel him from the Senate if he won his Dec. 12 special election. And, publicly and privately, GOP leaders described the allegations against Moore as credible and insisted there were no circumstances under which he should serve in the Senate.

Trump's tweets on Monday showed his thinking has evolved as Moore has rejected his party's appeals and doggedly remained in the race.

In the phone call, Moore said, Trump offered "his full support and said he needs a fighter to help him in the US Senate."

Moore tweeted that the president told him: "Go get 'em, Roy!"

Trump's move was somewhat symbolic: He had already all but endorsed Moore, repeatedly criticizing Democratic rival Doug Jones on Twitter and planning a campaign-style rally in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday, less than 20 miles from the Alabama border and just four days before voters head to the polls.

Still, Trump's decision to do away with any pretense of distance made clear he is increasingly confident in Moore's chances of victory despite the continued unease of some other Republican leaders.

And the RNC quickly followed his lead. An RNC official confirmed late Monday that the committee would once again be supporting Moore, after severing its fundraising ties to his campaign last month. It was not immediately clear what that support would entail. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to confirm the reversal, which was first reported by Breitbart News.

A Moore victory would set up a potentially explosive clash with fellow Republicans in Congress, some of whom have resoundingly called on him to quit the race. While some have softened their rhetoric recently, others have said they still will try to expel him if he is elected.

Moore's campaign was wounded by accusations this fall of sexual misconduct, decades ago, made by women who were then teenagers. One of the women alleges he initiated sexual contact when she was 14.

Moore denies it all, saying "I do not know any of these women. I did not date any of these women I did not engage in any sexual misconduct with anyone."

Trump, who has repeatedly noted Moore's denials, took a more political stance on Monday.

"Democrats refusal to give even one vote for massive Tax Cuts is why we need Republican Roy Moore to win in Alabama," Trump tweeted. "We need his vote on stopping crime, illegal immigration, Border Wall, Military, Pro Life, V.A., Judges 2nd Amendment and more."

In that same vein, longtime Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby said Trump's endorsement didn't surprise him. He said of the president, "I think he's interested, a lot of us are, in the numbers, being a Republican."

And Sen. Orrin Hatch, who traveled with Trump on Monday to Hatch's home state of Utah, said he realistically didn't have any choice. Hatch said, of Moore, "That's the only Republican you can possibly get down there at this time."

Trump first appeared to back Moore after his first choice, Sen. Luther Strange, lost the GOP primary for the seat once held by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But the president went silent after The Washington Post reported on the allegations of sexual misconduct with two teens, ages 14 and 16, and efforts to date several others while Moore was a local prosecutor in his 30s.

By late last month, however, with pressure mounting from his former chief strategist Steve Bannon and other corners of his base, Trump was making clear that he preferred Moore, raising doubts about the candidate's accusers and criticizing Democrat Jones as the "liberal puppet" of Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

Meanwhile, Moore himself was strongly criticized by top Republicans, including Cory Gardner of Colorado, chairman of the Senate GOP campaign apparatus known as the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

"If he refuses to withdraw and wins, the Senate should vote to expel him, because he does not meet the ethical and moral requirements of the United States Senate," Gardner said three weeks ago. He said last week he stood by that statement.

Jones, the Democrat, sidestepped questions about Trump's endorsement while suggesting the support of national Republicans like McConnell could do more harm than good in Alabama.

"Our campaign is going straight to the people of the Alabama because that's who my voters are. It's not the president, it's not Mitch McConnell," Jones told reporters outside a steel mill in suburban Birmingham. "Obviously Mitch McConnell has very little credibility in this state anyway, so I'm not worried about him at all."

Expelling a senator is no easy task. The Senate Ethics Committee would have to investigate, and a recommendation of expulsion could take years.

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Peoples reported from Birmingham, Alabama. Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Nancy Benac contributed to this report.

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