Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A Republican candidate, widely loathed by the party establishment and known for his inflammatory comments, has defeated rivals more embedded in the party hierarchy. Now, about a month until election day, accusations of sexual impropriety have upended his campaign.
That is, of course, where things stood a little more than a year ago, when The Washington Post first published a tape in which Donald Trump boasted about sexually assaulting women. And it’s where things stand in the special election for U.S. Senate in Alabama, where the Post has just published a story featuring four women who say that GOP nominee Roy Moore pursued them when they were younger than 18, including one who says he guided her hand to touch his penis when she was 14.
Now the Republican Party faces a moral and political test: How will it respond to the accusations against Moore? It’s a decision in which the Trump experience will weigh heavily.
When the Trump tape landed in early October, along with stories from multiple women who alleged unwanted sexual contact of other kinds over the course of several decades, many Republican officeholders leaped to dissociate themselves from Trump. Many of them had never really liked him, and had supported other candidates in the GOP primary, endorsing him only reluctantly once he locked up the Republican nomination. After the tape, they reasoned that Trump was likely to lose anyway and might even be forced to withdraw his candidacy in the wake of the allegations. Better to jump ship and preserve moral standing than to back a candidate destined to lose anyway.