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Moore crushes Strange in Alabama Senate primary

Republican challenger Roy Moore defeated Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama’s Senate primary Tuesday night, riding a wave of rural support over the incumbent backed by President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Moore, a former state Supreme Court justice, had 56 percent of the vote to Strange’s 44 percent with about two-thirds of the vote counted. Strange, who was appointed to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old seat earlier this year, is the first senator to lose a primary since Indiana Republican Richard Lugar was defeated in 2012.

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Moore’s victory comes despite the efforts of top Republicans in Washington, who threw their weight behind Strange. Trump endorsed Strange in August and appeared with him in Alabama last week, while a super PAC aligned with McConnell spent millions of dollars on pro-Strange advertising.

But Strange never led a single public poll against Moore since finishing behind Moore in the August primary and qualifying for the runoff. Moore had been elected statewide twice and built up a committed conservative following during stints on the state Supreme Court, where he defied federal orders on same-sex marriage and the display of a statue of the Ten Commandments.

Strange leaned on Trump’s endorsement to try and overcome Moore’s popularity among Republicans. While the McConnell-aligned super PAC Senate Leadership Fund slashed at Moore, Strange cited Trump at every chance, especially in a debate the week before the primary runoff. Trump touted Strange on Twitter in addition to appearing with him in Huntsville on Friday.

But Strange still trailed in public surveys of the primary runoff, and Trump was privately telling conservative activists this week that he expected Strange to lose.

“I am especially grateful for the support of President Trump and Vice President Pence, as well as the strong example set by my friends Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions,” Strange said in a statement. “I congratulate Roy Moore on the result this evening. May God be with him and may God continue to bless Alabama and the United States of America.”

Moore criticized McConnell during the primary, but the Republican leader said in a congratulatory statement that he will support Moore in the special election.

“He ran a spirited campaign centered around a dissatisfaction with the progress made in Washington. I share that frustration and believe that enacting the agenda the American people voted for last November requires us all to work together,” McConnell said in the statement. “We look forward to Judge Moore’s help enacting that agenda when he arrives. Senate Republicans will be as committed to keeping Alabama’s Senate seat in Republican hands with Roy Moore as we were with Luther Strange.”

Senate Leadership Fund also vowed to back Moore going forward.

“While we were honored to have fought hard for Big Luther, Judge Roy Moore won this nomination fair and square and he has our support, as it is vital that we keep this seat in Republican hands,” SLF president Steven Law said in a statement.

President Donald Trump is pictured. | Getty Images

Moore’s primary victory buoyed anti-establishment Republicans who have been trying for years to defeat another incumbent in a primary. In the final weeks of the runoff, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon endorsed Moore, seeing a victory in Alabama as the beginning of a wave of primary challenges to Republican senators around the country. Bannon argued that other Republicans in Nevada, Arizona, and Mississippi are vulnerable to a challenge in a similar way to Strange, even though Strange was appointed to the Senate and the others had previously won primaries.

Initially, groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which endorsed Strange, and Republican senators close to McConnell also framed the Strange-Moore primary as part of a running battle between wings of the GOP — and a chance to stamp out any party disloyalty.

“USCC vs. Bannon,” a top Chamber official said when the group decided to endorse Strange.

But as Strange continued trailing in polls and the primary drew closer, other Republicans began arguing that a Moore win would be unique to Alabama, pointing to Strange’s appointment to the Senate seat by former Gov. Robert Bentley, who would later step down because of a sex scandal.

Moore will now face Democrat Doug Jones in a December special election. Jones, a former U.S. attorney, won his primary outright in August, and some Democrats hope that he could be competitive against Moore, despite Alabama’s strong Republican lean. Former Vice President Joe Biden is slated to campaign for Jones in Alabama next week.

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Source: POLITICO – TOP Stories

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