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President Donald Trump doesn't want Roy Moore getting in the way of Republicans winning back a U.S. Senate seat next year in the reliably red state of Alabama.
"I have NOTHING against Roy Moore, and unlike many other Republican leaders, wanted him to win. But he didn't, and probably won't," Trump tweeted Wednesday morning, mentioning his prior endorsement of Moore, a former judge who has been accused of committing sexual misconduct against teenage girls decades ago. Moore has denied the allegations, and Trump has defended him.
Yet, the stakes are too high this time, according to the president, who warned that a Moore run could jeopardize his anti-abortion push. Earlier this month, Alabama's governor signed the nation's most restrictive abortion law.
"If Alabama does not elect a Republican to the Senate in 2020, many of the incredible gains that we have made during my Presidency may be lost, including our Pro-Life victories," Trump added, referring to his appointments of conservative federal judges and Supreme Court justices.
Moore has been hinting that he could run for Senate again, which is a concerning sign for Republicans, who are eager to hold on to their edge in the Senate under Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. There is speculation that Moore could announce his candidacy next month.
Moore lost a tight race to former federal prosecutor Doug Jones in a 2017 special election to fill the seat vacated by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Jones is the first Democrat to hold one of Alabama's U.S. Senate seats since Howell Heflin, who retired in 1997.
The Alabama Senate race will be among the hottest contests next year, regardless of whether Moore runs. Now that a full six-year Senate term is on the line, Republicans are eager to run someone free of scandal. Jones is considered one of the most vulnerable incumbents on the board. Rep. Bradley Byrne has already entered the race for the GOP Senate nomination in the state, which Trump won in 2016 by a nearly 30-point margin.
Byrne, like Trump, has said Moore can't win the election. However, Moore said that Byrne was "worried" and that "he knows that if I run I will beat Doug Jones."
Responding to Moore, Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, said it was time for the former judge "to ride off into the sunset."
Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, after picking up two seats during the 2018 midterms. Next year, the GOP will have to defend 22 Senate seats, compared with the 12 Democrats are slated to defend.