Senate Republicans are at odds with President Trump over Roy Moore and the Alabama Senate race.
Trump broke more than a week of silence on Tuesday by raising doubt about the allegations of sexual misconduct facing Moore, contradicting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and other Senate Republicans.
Trump pushed back on a reporter who asked how he felt about electing a “child molester” by noting that Moore “totally denies it.”
The Alabama Republican became embroiled in scandal after The Washington Post reported that he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old girl when he was 32.
Several other women have come forward to accuse Moore of inappropriate sexual advances that happened when they were teenagers.
“He says it didn’t happen, ”Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House. “You have to listen to him, also.”
That’s not what McConnell wanted to hear, according to sources close to the Senate GOP leadership.
McConnell is worried that Moore will drag down Republican candidates in 2018, which is shaping up to be a tough year for the GOP, and will hurt the party’s brand.
“Not only does Moore really hurt Republicans in the Senate and Republicans nationally, he also does great damage to the conservative movement because now every conservative has to answer for Roy Moore,” said a strategist close to the Senate Republican leadership.
“Roy Moore comes along, claiming to be a conservative, and now all conservatives are saddled with a guy who is known for one thing and that’s assaulting kids,” the source added.
McConnell’s top priority is keeping Republicans in control of the Senate after 2018 and some GOP strategists believe that will be tougher with Moore in the Senate.
McConnell told reporters last month that he keeps in mind the lesson of former Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who became an embarrassment to the party in 2012 by talking about “legitimate rape.”
Akin not only lost a Missouri Senate seat that the GOP appeared poised to win but he hurt Republican candidates in other states.
“You don’t have to be the most astute to read the exit polls out of New Jersey and Virginia and look at the results around the country to realize women, people of color and voters younger than 40 are moving in a tidal wave against the Republicans. So why would you want, going into 2018, to embrace or be handcuffed to Roy Moore? Why?” said Republican strategist John Weaver.
“At least McConnell and them are smart enough to get that,” he said.
But Trump appears less concerned with how the Alabama…