It's desperation time for Republican leaders on Alabama.
Sexual misconduct allegations against Senate nominee Roy Moore have repelled party leaders and convinced them that he can't win next month's special election in one of the nation's most conservative states. Nor, in their view, can a last minute write-in candidacy by incumbent Sen. Luther Strange or Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whose resignation triggered the election in the first place.
That has led Republicans to consider a series of legally improbable and political dubious options to preserve the 52nd seat of their narrow Senate majority — which could mean the difference between success and failure on the pending push for tax cuts.
One is the idea, promoted by conservative commentator Hugh Hewitt, that interim Sen. Strange could resign before the Dec. 12 election. Under this scenario, the resulting vacancy could trigger a new special election that would give Republicans a "do-over" primary in which they could try again to defeat Moore.
The problem with this scenario, which has been under active discussion among Republicans in Washington this week, is that the law apparently won't permit it.
Because Strange is an interim senator, GOP aides say his resignation would merely trigger appointment of a new interim senator to serve until the Dec. 12 election. Alabama's GOP Gov. Kay Ivey agrees.
"The election date is set for December 12," Ivey told AL.com. "Were [Strange] to resign, I would simply appoint somebody to fill the remaining time until we have the election."
A second Republican hope is that Ivey would simply postpone the election. This idea hinges on hope that Republicans could force Moore out of the race and allow a new candidate to take his place sometime early next year.
But because early voting in the contest has already begun, Democrats say they have a strong legal argument that the election cannot be delayed. There's also a strong political argument against it for Ivey, who plans to seek re-election next year and doesn't want to alienate Moore's large block of GOP supporters.
The most legally realistic option for keeping the seat in GOP hands may be the most politically far-fetched of all. It relies on a two-step process.
First, Moore would have to announce he's quitting the race — something he has adamantly maintained he will not do.
Second, Moore would have to win the election anyway, which is theoretically possible since his name cannot be removed from the ballot this close to the election.
Under this scenario, with someone no longer a candidate having won, Ivey could declare the seat vacant and appoint another Republican.
Among multiple reasons this chain of events is unlikely: The Democratic candidate, Doug Jones, now leads Moore in the polls.