The Republican National Committee is withdrawing its support for besieged Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, leaving him increasingly isolated as he confronts charges of sexual misconduct with teenagers.
The RNC is pulling out of a joint fundraising agreement it had with Moore, according to a senior party official briefed on the decision. It is also canceling a field program it had set up ahead of the state’s Dec. 12 special election. The committee had about a dozen paid canvassers in Alabama working for Moore. It will no longer transfer any money to the race.
RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel is expected to brief committee members on the decision on a Tuesday conference call.
Even before allegations surfaced against Moore, the committee believed he was in trouble. Internal RNC polling conducted around a week ago showed him leading his Democratic opponent by just two percentage points. The committee has been evaluating options about what to do about Moore over the last few days.
The move comes as the party intensifies its effort to pressure Moore out of the race. On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on the candidate to “step aside.” McConnell also said he believed the accounts of Moore’s female accusers, who told the Washington Post that Moore pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s.
National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman Cory Gardner said that if Moore refuses to withdraw and wins the race, the Senate should move to expel him. On Friday, one day after the accusations surfaced, the NRSC withdrew from its joint fundraising agreement with Moore.
New allegations emerged on Monday, when Attorney Gloria Allred introduced a new Moore accuser, Beverly Young Nelson, at a news conference in New York City. Nelson said that Moore assaulted her when she was 15 years old and afterward tried to intimidate her to remain silent.
Moore, a former state Supreme Court justice, has vehemently denied the allegations and has vowed to remain in the race. "We’ve said this before and we’ll say it again: Judge Moore is an innocent man and has never had any sexual misconduct with anyone,” his campaign said on Monday.
National Republicans appear to be stuck. During the Republican nomination battle, McConnell aggressively backed Moore’s opponent, appointed GOP Sen. Luther Strange. Moore feels he owes Republican leaders little.
“The person who should step aside is @SenateMajLdr Mitch McConnell,” Moore tweeted on Monday. “He has failed conservatives and must be replaced. #DrainTheSwamp.”
Even if Moore were to exit, his name would still appear on the ballot because state law prevents a candidate from withdrawing from a race within 76 days before an election.
One possibility being discussed is waging a write-in campaign. But with just over four weeks until the election, such an effort would be a long-shot. Strange, who Moore defeated in a September runoff, has expressed little interest in being a write-in candidate, according to three people with direct knowledge of his thinking.
Others have raised the prospect that the special election would be delayed. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey’s has pushed back on taking such a drastic step, according to one person briefed on the discussions.
Moore is facing off against Democrat Doug Jones, a former U.S. attorney. A Democratic win in the deeply conservative state had once been thought as unthinkable. But Moore’s mounting problems have given Republicans serious concern. A GOP loss in Alabama would slice the party’s already-slim majority, imperiling President Donald Trump’s troubled legislative agenda.