As the 2018 Congressional elections unfold, it seems increasingly evident that battle lines are being drawn around who supported President Trump in his 2016 bid for the presidency and who didn’t. While some camps say these campaign allegiances mean little, and others say they mean everything, there’s no denying they’ve become relevant to Alabama’s U.S. House and Senate races.
One case in point is a Politico story this week that made much of Alabama Congresswoman Martha Roby’s opposition to Trump in the 2016 election, despite the fact that her district went strongly for the President. As the article stated, Roby seems to have worked hard to rebuild bridges since the election, starting with a 3:00 am Tweet congratulating Trump the night he won stating, “I’m eager to get to work.”
Those close to Roby’s campaign indicated that her relationship with the President is a good one and that the White House issued an endorsement of her “Working Families Flexibility Act.” As Politico quoted Roby spokeswoman Emily Taylor,
The White House has made it clear from Day One that it is committed to working with Congress to deliver results, and Rep. Roby has a proven track record of consistently supporting President Trump’s agenda. From being invited to NASA and VA bill-signing ceremonies, to sitting in the Oval Office to help the president build support for the Republican health care bill, Rep. Roby has enjoyed a positive working relationship with the Trump administration.
Perhaps Roby best summarized her campaign position in her quote to the Dothan Eagle last January: “Emotions run high during elections. I truly believed we were headed for defeat. That obviously turned out to be wrong, and he won. Look, I’m glad he did. The whole point was to defeat Hillary Clinton. I always call it like I see it. I did then, and I will now. I will tell you that the first week of this administration — what I have seen and heard — has been very, very good.”
Roby’s opponent in the Republican primary for Congress—State Representative Barry Moore—makes it clear that he did not get it wrong in the presidential election. As the Politico piece said, Moore, is a “Trump stalwart who has turned her [Roby’s] past opposition to the president into the focal point of his campaign.” When Yellowhammer asked Moore about his position in the presidential race, he stated:
I was a strong supporter of Trump early on and was the first state elected official to endorse him. I was with him in Mobile and Birmingham, and I spoke on the bus tour here in the Wiregrass when he came through Coffee County. And right before the inauguration, I spoke to the crowd in Mobile because I felt like we needed to thank him for giving a voice to so many Americans.
When asked why this important to the Congressional race, he continued:
I believe the President values trust and loyalty. Because I was there when times were tough, my loyalty is something he’ll never question. So I think it bodes well to have a conservative in Congress that he can rely on in the heat of battle…someone that embraced his agenda from day one and someone he knows without a doubt will help him accomplish what the American people sent him to the White House to do. That will make a tremendous difference for the citizens of Alabama. I was a foxhole friend instead of a cut and run Congressman and as I’ve said before, the President can throw the pass, but he can’t catch it too. He needs trustworthy lawmakers he can depend on when times are tough to catch those passes.
The question of Trump support in 2016 has also become a major flashpoint in the special election for Alabama’s U.S. Senate seat. In that race, appointed Senator Luther Strange is facing special election primary challengers that include Congressman Mo Brooks, Judge Roy Moore, and State Senator Trip Pittman, to name a few.
On a recent visit to Montgomery, The Hill quoted Strange as saying, “President Trump is the greatest thing that’s happened to this country. I consider it a biblical miracle that he’s there.”
Strange’s campaign and related PACs have released content saying Rep. Brooks opposed Trump in the primary and failed to verify his support for the President in the general election. In response, Brooks notes that he was Ted Cruz’s state chair in the primary and was just doing his job in opposing Trump until Cruz bowed out in May. From that day forward, Brooks said he helped Trump. He sent Yellowhammer a copy of a $2,500 check he wrote through a PAC, which he said funded Alabama volunteers getting the vote for Trump in Florida. Brooks said Strange had produced no evidence that he supported Trump and until he does so, it’s Strange that was the Never-Trumper in the election. Like Rep. Roby, Rep. Brooks also points to his voting record supporting the president as a Member of Congress.
A bigger issue is who’s supported Donald Trump in Congress. We’ve cast over 300 votes in the House since the election and I don’t know of a single vote I’ve cast that is contrary to the public request of the White House. In the healthcare debate, for example, the President called and personally thanked me for my work on the heath care bill that passed in the House. That was a tremendous event in my life. I’ve also given speeches supporting the President on the floor of the House. The question is simple: why is Luther Strange lying about my record and being hypocritical when the evidence proves I helped Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in the general election and my votes, speeches ,and public remarks prove I have been one of the strongest supporters of President Trump’s agenda in Congress? The answer is clear. Alabama voters are rejecting Luther Strange’s false advertising, hypocrisy, unethical conduct, and wallowing in the swamp of special interest groups. Luther Strange has decided his only path to victory is to deceive voters by tearing down the good reputations other candidates have earned. Fortunately for America, Alabama voters are seeing through Luther Strange’s s desperate and deceptive negative attacks.
As one might imagine, Senator Strange had a different take, stating:
Career politician Congressman Brooks continues to show that he’ll say anything to win. He has yet to apologize for the deeply personal attacks he made against President Trump, calling him evil and refusing to endorse him just a few days before the November election. It’s time for Congressman Brooks to apologize to President Trump, his family and to the Alabama voters he insulted, but even that would ring hollow in the light of his willingness to speak out of both sides of his mouth.”
When Yellowhammer asked Strange to verify that he was also a Trump supporter in the campaign as Brooks has said he was, they replied, “Don’t take our word for it, ask a third party who helped Trump win Alabama to verify our role.” That third party is Perry Hooper, one of the co-chairmen of Trump’s campaign in Alabama, who released a statement today saying:
Congressman Brooks’ claim that he supported Donald Trump in the general election is a flat out lie. Not only did Congressman Brooks go on a radio show in October refusing to endorse Donald Trump, he actually refused to answer the question of who he planned on voting for in the election. Furthermore, in November he told a newspaper in the swing state of North Carolina that Donald Trump was not well suited for office and said the vote between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton was a decision between the lesser of two evils. Additionally, I am proud to confirm that Luther Strange was all in for Donald Trump in my successful efforts to help Mr. Trump win in Pennsylvania and Ohio.”
Meanwhile, Alabama State Senator Trip Pittman said he met Murray Carson, the son of Dr. Ben Carson, at a campaign forum in Mobile. “I was so impressed with Murray that it swayed me to endorse Dr. Ben Carson in the primary,” Senator Pittman said. He continued,
I was moved by Dr. Carson’s strong and humble faith and his view of what it will take to restore America’s greatness—a revival of faith, family, and personal responsibility, as well as a strong economy. Obviously, President Trump was impressed with Dr. Carson too because he made him part of his cabinet soon after taking office. Anyway, as soon as Dr. Carson dropped out, he was the first presidential candidate to endorse President Trump and I followed his lead. I put my money where my mouth was with two personal campaign donations to Trump. For a businessman like me, it was very refreshing to see the party nominate a businessman like Donald Trump. Our country is in the midst of a real political revolution, and President Trump’s election confirms that. He was written off by elites on both sides of the aisle, but at the end of the day, he persevered and was successful. Unlike some of the candidates in this U.S. Senate race, I don’t just pay lip service to support his candidacy. I have the records to prove it. But at the end of the day, all that truly matters is that we now have an opportunity to change the course of people’s lives for the better. The first order of business is to start freeing them from big government.
Candidate Roy Moore also weighed in on his position:
Obviously, politicians running for office will say or do anything to get elected. I’m not going to say who I voted for in the primary, but I supported Donald Trump in the general election, and I accepted an invitation to speak at his inaugural prayer breakfast at Trump Towers on January 20, 2017. At that event, I said believed Donald Trump was elected president by providential design. Having said that, this Senatorial campaign is about one’s stance on the issues, and my positions line up with the President’s across the board from health care reform to immigration reform.
Whatever one makes of who was with the President in his 2016 bid for the White House and who wasn’t, it’s pretty clear that everyone wants to be associated with him now. What’s also clear is that most Republicans now realize—however late or early they came to do so—that Donald Trump gave a sense of empowerment to millions of frustrated Americans who felt they’d been overlooked and forgotten. That includes some 1.3 million Alabamians (63% of those in the state that voted in the presidential campaign), and those are 1.3 million registered voters these candidates are hoping to swing their way as the summer campaigns grow hotter.
About the Author: Larry Huff is Yellowhammer’s executive editor and you can follow him on Twitter @LHYellowhammer