Republicans say Alabama loss was rejection of Roy Moore, not the GOP

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore talks to the media as he arrives to vote, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Gallant, Ala. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Republicans on Capitol Hill brushed off Senate candidate Roy Moore’s defeat in deep-red Alabama Wednesday, placing blame firmly on Moore’s own shortcomings rather than the president or the party.

“I think Roy Moore was a flawed candidate,” said Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Ill.

Weeks before Tuesday’s election, Moore faced accusations that he made sexual advances on teenage girls when he was in his 30s, including one 14-year-old. He has denied any inappropriate behavior and called the women liars.

“When you read about the allegations, they’re disturbing and I was disturbed by them,” LaHood said.

Democrat Doug Jones defeated Moore to fill the seat vacated by Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sen. Luther Strange was initially appointed to replace Sessions, but he lost the Republican primary to Moore.

“I’m a Republican and I obviously would have preferred to have a different Republican than Roy Moore running,” LaHood said, “but that’s part of the system.”

Even before the allegations of child molestation, Moore was a controversial candidate. As a judge, he was twice removed from the bench for refusing to follow the law and he has a long history of making statements that have been seen as bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic, and Islamophobic.

On Tuesday as voters were at the polls, a Moore campaign official told CNN the candidate “probably” still believes homosexuality should be illegal.

President Donald Trump supported Strange in the primary, but he forcefully endorsed Moore in the general election, praising him and urging Republicans to vote for him at a rally in Florida near the Alabama border last Friday.

Although the Republican National Committee joined Trump in offering support for Moore recently despite the allegations against him, many top Republicans in Washington have remained cold or outright hostile to his candidacy. Alabama’s senior senator, Richard Shelby, told WPMI last week that he was writing in another Republican’s name because he refused to vote for Moore.

Democrats have portrayed Moore’s loss as a repudiation of President Trump and the direction in which he is leading the Republican Party. Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Okla., dismissed that interpretation, noting that Trump is still quite popular in Alabama.

“100 percent rejection of Judge Moore,” he said. “There was no reflection on the Republican Party. There was no blowback because of Trump.”

Some in the GOP place blame on former White House strategist Steve Bannon, whom Moore has credited with helping keep his campaign alive after the allegations against him were reported.

"Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into this fiasco," a spokesperson for the Senate Leadership Fund said in a statement.

“He looks like some disheveled drunk that wondered onto the political stage,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., told CNN Wednesday.

Rep. Tom Reed, R-N.Y., said Moore’s loss will not alter how he approaches his reelection bid in 2018, with a focus on policy rather than politics.

“Politics will take care of itself, in my opinion,” he said. “I’ve always been a firm believer that if you do what’s right, if you focus on the policy and you be straight with the people back home and you show up like we do with town halls and listen to people, and even when you disagree with people, just talk with them and honestly tell them where you stand and understand where they’re coming from.”

Though Moore refused to concede to Jones late Tuesday night and his campaign was discussing recount procedures, Republicans in Congress seemed more than ready to move on.

“In a democracy, you leave it up to the voters, and the voters spoke loud and clear last night that they do not want Roy Moore as their U.S. senator and we have to live with that,” LaHood said.

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