Republican senators went into their Thursday lunch saying they needed more information to comment on a report that their Alabama Senate nominee, Roy Moore, made sexual advances toward a 14-year-old when he was 32.
They left the room with a talking point.
“If there’s a shred of truth to it, he needs to step aside,” Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey said.
“If they’re accurate, he should step aside,” South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said.
“If they’re proven to be true, then he should step aside,” was North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis’ variation.
Richard Shelby, the senior senator from Alabama, mixed it up on the “step aside” part. “If that’s true, then he wouldn’t belong in the Senate.”
Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who doesn’t ever speak to reporters outside of his brief Tuesday press conference, gave the ol’ if true, step aside outside the lunch room.
It is not like there’s much love lost between Moore and Senate Republicans, who worked aggressively on behalf of their current colleague, Sen. Luther Strange, in the special election primary. Though several senators have explicitly endorsed Moore since then, and others have grudgingly accepted him, it’s not like they have much of a desire to protect him. Yes, most of them are applying “if true” in the immediate aftermath of the news. But senators like Ohio’s Rob Portman and Arizona’s John McCain are already dispensing with that.
There is no indication that Moore, who denied the allegations as “garbage” and the “the very definition of fake news and intentional defamation,” intends to drop out of the race against Democrat Doug Jones. Under Alabama law, if he did drop out before the election is held on Dec. 12, his name would still remain on the ballot. He just wouldn’t be certified, even if had the most votes. There’s already some talk that Sen. Luther Strange, who lost to Moore in a primary, could mount a write-in campaign; the state’s “sore loser” law would not prohibit him from doing so. But with Strange having been so soundly rejected in the primary, it’s hard to see a huge surge of Republicans writing in his name, outside of the suburbs of Birmingham. Republicans could also try a write-in campaign for a candidate whom all Alabama Republicans love. (Perhaps a certain sitting U.S. Attorney General would fit the bill?)
Be sure that McConnell is working all of this out, right now.