The Slatest

Trump Endorses Jeff Sessions’ Opponent in Alabama’s GOP Senate Race to See Who’s the Trumpiest

Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions shake hands onstage.
Then-President-elect Donald Trump and Sen. Jeff Sessions, his pick at the time for attorney general, during a “thank you” rally in December 2016 in Mobile, Alabama. Mark Wallheiser/Getty Images

It’s a fickle world in Trump’s good books, but Jeff Sessions already knew that from his tenure as Trump’s attorney general punching bag before getting canned in November 2018, after less than two years on the job. The former Alabama senator and early Trump campaign adopter was reminded of his new status as not MAGA enough Tuesday night, when President Donald Trump endorsed his opponent in the Republican primary race for Alabama’s Senate seat. Trump took to Twitter to show his support for former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in the March 31 Republican runoff.

“Tommy was a terrific head football coach at Auburn University,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “He is a REAL LEADER who will never let MAGA/KAG, or our Country, down! Tommy will protect your Second Amendment (which is under siege), is strong on Crime and the Border, and truly LOVES our Military and our Vets. He will be a great Senator for the people of Alabama. Coach Tommy Tuberville, a winner, has my Complete and Total Endorsement. I love Alabama!”

Tuberville nipped Sessions in the GOP primary last week by less than two points, but his 33 percent of the vote fell far short of the majority needed to avoid a runoff. The matchup between Tuberville and Sessions clears the field as both candidates cozy up to Trump to try to win over the third of primary voters who voted for other candidates. Trump had reportedly agreed to avoid an endorsement during the primary, but that didn’t stop him from sniping at his former attorney general turned nemesis from afar.

Alabama Republicans love them some Trump and the race has largely been about which candidate can appear the Trumpiest. The obvious answer would be Jeff Sessions, who was the only voice within the Republican establishment to support Trump in the early days of his campaign. But Trump managed to construe Sessions’ recusal from the Mueller investigation as a personal slight and turned on his former surrogate. Sadly, Sessions is still running as an unloved pro-Trump candidate, running ads wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, playing up his early support of Trump and the fact that he never lashed out at Trump despite repeated public thrashings. “Even before he declared for the presidency, I fought for the principles that Donald Trump so effectively advocated in the campaign and has advanced as President,” Sessions tweeted following Trump’s endorsement. “I believed in those principles then, I have always fought for them, and I will continue to do so.”

Head-to-head polling since last week’s primary vote shows the GOP race is neck and neck. Despite his popularity in the state, Trump’s recent history of endorsements hasn’t proven decisive. Trump backed the man who took Sessions seat, Luther Strange, who went on to lose the GOP primary to Judge Roy Moore. Trump then backed Moore in the 2017 special election, despite allegations of inappropriate sexual advances with young girls over the years, and Moore lost to Democrat Doug Jones.