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Jeff Sessions and Tommy Tuberville Close Out Alabama’s G.O.P. Senate Runoff

2020-07-14 02:47:19

MOBILE, Ala. — Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican and former attorney general who is trying to reclaim his old Senate seat, on Monday declined to answer directly whether he would support his opponent, Tommy Tuberville, in the general election in the event that Mr. Sessions does not win Tuesday’s runoff race against him.

On his final day of campaigning, which largely involved a lunchtime Cracker Barrel stop and interviews with local Alabama reporters, Mr. Sessions criticized his opponent for his regular refusal to engage with the news media.

“I’d like for y’all to ask Tommy Tuberville of that,” Mr. Sessions told reporters when pressed on whether he could support his rival in November. “What’s he going to — who’s he going to support after the runoff if he loses? Where is he? He’s not available. He’s been hiding out now for two weeks.”

“Look, I’m a strong Republican,” Mr. Sessions added. “We need to win this seat. And I expect to advance that agenda.”

Mr. Trump, however, spent most of his overture criticizing his former attorney general, whom he said he knew “very well.”

“I made a mistake when I put him in as the attorney general,” Mr. Trump said. “He had his chance and he blew it. He recused himself right at the beginning, just about on Day 1 of a ridiculous scam, the Mueller scam, the Russia, Russia, Russia scam. And Jeff didn’t have the courage to stay there. He didn’t know about Russia. He had nothing to do, but he immediately ran for the hills.”

The contentious primary in Alabama has created an escalating ad war across the state, with more than $2.6 million flooding its relatively inexpensive television markets over the past two weeks in a torrent of negative attack ads. The Sessions campaign has denounced Mr. Tuberville as “Washington’s choice,” while the Tuberville campaign has repeatedly called Mr. Sessions “weak” (while also highlighting the president’s endorsement of Mr. Tuberville).

But the biggest recent spender in the Alabama Senate race has been the Club for Growth, the conservative anti-tax group, which has recently aligned closely with Mr. Trump. The group is supporting Mr. Tuberville and has spent $1.5 million since July 1, according to Advertising Analytics, an ad tracking firm, with multiple ads that highlight Mr. Trump’s endorsement of the former football coach.

That has helped Mr. Tuberville pick up support among many Republicans in Alabama, but even White House officials acknowledge that Mr. Tuberville would most likely face a tougher general election against Doug Jones, the state’s Democratic senator, than Mr. Sessions would, given Mr. Tuberville’s lack of political experience.

Mr. Sessions tried to emphasize this point on Monday. “I’ve been vetted. People know me,” he said. “We don’t know what other skeletons might lie in Tuberville’s closet.”

Mr. Sessions said in a brief interview that his recent appearance on Fox News’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight” had “electrified” his campaign. He appeared last Tuesday on Mr. Carlson’s show, where the host praised the Republican as “one of the very few politicians I do respect.”

“We had $30,000 — small-dollar contributions — come in right after that,” Mr. Sessions said in between conversations with voters at a Cracker Barrel in Mobile.

It was a notable feat, he added, given that his opponent has had a fund-raising advantage for much of the primary.

Tuesday’s election stands to lay bare the extent to which Mr. Trump has turned Mr. Sessions’s own state against him. Before the Trump era, Mr. Sessions could do virtually no wrong in the eyes of Alabama’s Republicans, winning four Senate elections from 1997 to 2017, in one race without so much as a primary challenger.

But Mr. Trump has made it something of a personal mission to ensure that Mr. Sessions does not return to the Senate.

Accordingly, the president has wholeheartedly embraced Mr. Tuberville despite the candidate’s stances on issues like immigration and trade, which appear to diverge from the Trump agenda.


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