Trump to Campaign in Alabama for Republican Luther Strange

U.S. President Donald Trump will campaign Friday at a rally in Alabama on behalf of Senator Luther Strange, an establishment-backed Republican candidate who has trailed opponent Roy Moore in a special runoff election.

Strange, who was appointed to the Senate seat vacated when Jeff Sessions became attorney general, was endorsed last month by Trump.

The president said Friday his support of Strange has bolstered his candidacy, but predicted on Twitter the race will be close.

Despite the president’s support, Moore, a former Alabama chief justice who was twice removed from the bench for disobeying judicial orders, has maintained a lead in the polls. He is campaigning on an anti-Washington platform and is known for unsuccessfully pushing for the public display of the Ten Commandments and opposing gay marriage.

During a debate Thursday night, Strange emphasized “the president supports me,” while Moore argued that Strange supporter Senate Majority Mitch McConnell and other members of the “elite Washington establishment” were trying to influence the race.

A super political action committee linked to McConnell has injected millions of dollars into the race amid Republican concern Moore would be a disruptive force in the Senate, or possibly lose to Democrat Doug Jones.

Moore also has high-profile support, led by former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and his conservative website Brietbart News. Additionally, Moore has the backing of former White House adviser Sebastian Gorka and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.

While Trump claims his support of Strange has narrowed Moore’s lead in the polls, the latest RealClearPolitics polling average completed on September 17 shows Moore with a nearly 9-point lead.

Moore led Strange in the first round of Republican voting, although the margin was not wide enough to avoid a runoff election, which will be held next Tuesday.

Some political observers say the runoff will be an early test of Trump’s influence over his political base. Republican leaders are concerned about the impact a loss by Strange could have on Trump’s political strength ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections, as well as Republicans’ ability to advance Trump’s agenda in Congress.

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