President Donald Trump on Monday fully endorsed Roy Moore, acting to back the Alabama Senate candidate after conversations with his former strategist Stephen K. Bannon, who has advocated Moore’s candidacy.
Trump’s early morning tweets were his first all-out endorsement of Moore, who has been accused of making unwanted sexual advances on teenage girls. They came after Republican leaders began to back away in recent days from previous threats to expel Moore if he were to win the Dec. 12 election.
Trump called Moore on Monday morning.
“Go get ’em, Roy!” Trump told Moore, according to a description of the phone call that Moore posted on Twitter.
“Just got off the phone with President Trump who offered his full support and said he needs a fighter to help him in the US Senate,” Moore wrote.
Trump’s strong support came after a couple of polls showed Moore starting to re-establish a lead over Democrat Doug Jones, providing an argument to Moore’s backers that Trump’s support could make the difference in the race.
A Washington Post poll released Saturday, however, showed the race near a dead heat.
Overall, polling by several organizations has shown the race close despite Alabama’s heavy Republican tilt. In addition to the usual margin of error in polls, the outcome is even harder to predict because of the difficulty in knowing who will turn out to vote in a special election held a couple of weeks before Christmas that has been roiled by the accusations against Moore.
Some advisers to the president were concerned that if Trump didn’t come out more forcefully in favor of Moore, the former Alabama state judge could lose, according to people familiar with the conversations who spoke anonymously to comment on the internal discussions.
Bannon recently talked with Trump about putting the president’s full weight behind Moore, according to a person close to the White House who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.
In November, Trump pointed to Moore’s denials of the allegations against the candidate from several decades ago and spoke against voting for Democrat Doug Jones, but did not explicitly endorse Moore.
Trump is not campaigning for Moore directly, but is scheduled to hold a rally on Friday in the Florida Panhandle, which shares a media market with Mobile, Ala. The special election is to fill the seat of Jeff Sessions, who is now U.S. attorney general.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., have previously called on Moore to step aside, saying they believe the allegations. The Republican National Committee is among several conservative groups to withdraw support. Some Republican senators said last month that if Moore were to win the election, they would move to expel him.
But in a sign that the GOP is warming to the candidate, McConnell said Sunday on ABC News that the decision, at least for now, should be left to Alabama voters.