Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell narrowly escaped humiliation at the hands of Alabama's voters here on Tuesday, with his preferred candidate in a contested Senate primary only advancing to a runoff after a late assist from President Donald Trump.
That victory could be short-lived. Hard-right conservative Judge Roy Moore looked likely to coast to a first-place finish in what will turn out to be the first round of voting, with McConnell's favored candidate — incumbent Sen. Luther Strange — appearing set to come in second, according to Decision Desk projections. The run-off election will be held in September.
Rep. Mo Brooks, a Tea Party darling, looks likely to come in third and miss the cut.
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McConnell's leadership team threw its weight and millions of dollars behind Strange, who was appointed to the seat earlier this year and is widely viewed as an establishment ally more likely to support McConnell's agenda.
But with Strange sagging in the polls, Trump surprised political observers last week and came to McConnell's aid — giving Strange his "complete and total endorsement"and recording robocalls on the Alabama senator's behalf. That decision came even as the president was making his displeasure with McConnell widely known.
It appears to have been enough to get Strange to the second round, but not nearly enough to top the first round of voting. Moore, a controversial figure who rose to national prominence refusing to take down a monument of the Ten Commandments at his courthouse, will enter the run-off as the favorite.