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DANIEL VAUGHAN: Republicans, Roy Moore isn’t worth the price
Let’s start with something fundamental: What Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore stands accused of, (molesting a 14-year-old girl and actively preying on other high school girls), is disgusting, reprehensible, and immediately disqualifying for any office, including dog catcher.
The Washington Post story at the center of this bombshell is about as bulletproof as you can get for a news story. They interviewed four different women, independent of each other, who all told a coherent, unchanging account of Moore. The Post corroborated the story with thirty other witnesses and local records, all of which agreed Moore had targeted teenage girls.
Moore’s legal colleagues at the time said it was open knowledge that Moore sought out high school-aged girls. Moore, who himself initially attacked and denied the accusations, has since slowly walked this back, admitting he did date high school girls. So while Moore’s denials have changed, the underlying allegations have not.
In an environment where victims are coming forward in droves to relate their past assaults, it’s not enough to ask “why now?” When the 1960’s liberal sexual revolution is imploding all around us every day, it shouldn’t be surprising to see some on the right, mesmerized by that same culture, get torn down too.
But beyond Moore’s sins, the Republican Party is in a bind just weeks out from a special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions old seat. How does the GOP deal with the Moore fallout?
For a while, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) and Republicans floated the idea of postponing the election. Delaying would give the Alabama GOP a chance to assess the damage and figure out if they need to pressure Moore to drop out. The second problem is whether or not the Republicans could add anyone to the ballot.
Here’s the dilemma they’re facing, according to Alabama law Section 17-6-21. If they were to convince Moore to step down and reject the nomination, they have to do so 76 days before the special election to remove him from the ballot. Otherwise, his name remains on the ballot.
Currently, the Alabama special election is scheduled to occur on December 12, 2017, less than a month away and well within the 76-day statutory range. If Moore stepped down at this point, the statute says that his name remains on the ballot and “the appropriate canvassing board may not certify any votes for the candidate.” That means people could vote for Moore, but their votes essentially wouldn’t count.
What Republicans were likely thinking of when moving the election was two-fold: 1) Move the election outside that 76-day window to find a way to force Moore off the ballot. 2) Allow time for the Moore allegations to die down in the event they failed at forcing Moore off the ballot.
The issues they’ve encountered, however, is that early absentee ballots were sent out starting on October 15th for the December election. Election officials have said that they’ve already received ballots back from the absentee process, meaning some people have already voted for Moore. Changing the tickets at this stage of the race would require extensive legal arguments that would, in the end, undoubtedly need input from the Alabama Supreme Court.
People already early voting is likely why Gov. Ivey said she wouldn’t postpone the election. There’s simply nothing to gain by delaying the vote. Any ballot changes at this point almost assuredly guarantee victory for the Democrat Doug Jones’s campaign.
The most likely path Republicans will take is to allow Roy Moore to sink or swim on his own. It’s the path of least resistance for Alabama Republicans and pushes any decisions off on the voting public. National Republicans would probably prefer more action from the state party, if only because if Moore wins, he’ll be their problem.
The hope of both state and national Republicans is for Moore to lose. Allowing the race to continue without delay probably accomplishes that goal. Moore’s most bullish poll was from Emerson College, who had Moore up 22 points before the Washington Post story. He’s only up 10 points now with Emerson College, a collapse of 12 points. The RealClearPolitics average just has Moore up two points now, after holding a commanding lead.
Moore’s problems don’t stop with him. If he wins, Democrats will run on a 2018 message of the Republican party accepting child molesters, and force every Senator to answer to that charge, similar to Todd “legitimate rape” Akin in 2012. Some Republican strategists have even suggested that Senators should deny Moore a seat if he should win.
In the end, the question is whether or not Roy Moore is worth the effort of dealing with by anyone, Republicans or voters. If a write-in movement starts up in earnest, you can bet money it’s about ensuring Moore loses the race.
A write-in vote would split the GOP vote and give Democrats a clear path to victory. The calculus among Republicans is that they could re-win the seat in 2018 with the stench of Luther Strange and Roy Moore gone. This approach is similar to how Democrats lost Ted Kennedy’s seat to Republican Scott Brown, but then re-won it with Elizabeth Warren.
Whatever solution Republican go with, it’s only a temporary one. The 2018 elections are coming quickly, and if Roy Moore wins, he’ll have to defend himself and the party from child molestation charges for the next 18 months. That’s a high price to pay for a person who’s supposed to be a placeholder until 2018. It’s hard to come up with a reason for Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell, or any Republican to spend political capital for defending one man – who doesn’t look innocent.
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