The Alabama Senate race to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s vacant seat was supposed to be a shoo-in for Republicans. But that changed after Moore was accused by nine women of sexual misconduct or abuse when they were teenagers in Alabama, and nearly all of the institutional Republican party abandoned him—except Trump. Trump stayed quiet during the thick of the scandal, finally buoying Moore in remarks made to reporters right before Thanksgiving. Earlier this week, Trump made it official, tweeting that “we need Republican Roy Moore to win” and offering Moore his support over the phone.
Trump’s last big rally was in September on behalf of Moore’s then-opponent in the runoff, Senator Luther Strange, who lost to Moore a few days afterward. But even then, Trump seemed lukewarm on Strange and promised at the rally to back Moore, already a controversial figure because of his opposition to LGBT rights, anti-Islam comments, and losing his judgeship over his insistence on keeping a 10 Commandments monument in the state supreme court.
One benefit of the rally not being an official campaign event for Moore was that Trump was free to fill most of it with his standard rally fare, touting his trade maneuvers and attacking the news media. Even so, Trump did more for Moore’s campaign on Friday night than Moore himself, who has not publicly campaigned since Tuesday and has no public events until Monday, when he will appear at a “Drain the Swamp” rally in southeastern Alabama.
Pensacola is about an hour away from Mobile, Alabama, and shares the same media market. When Trump asked if anyone in the crowd was from Alabama, a large portion of the audience cheered.
Many Republicans had quietly dropped their opposition to Moore even before this—even Mitch McConnell, who had threatened to expel Moore from the Senate if elected, said on Sunday that the voters of Alabama should decide. Everyone, it seems, is now on the same page; Trump; his former chief strategist Steve Bannon, who backed Moore while Trump was still for Strange; the RNC, which had ditched Moore but is now supporting him again.
Moore’s trajectory has mirrored Trump’s after the leak of the Access Hollywood tape, which prompted a frenzy of disavowals in his party and then reversals as the election drew nearer. But a new development on Friday gave them more cover beyond just the likelihood of Moore winning. Beverly Young Nelson, a woman who had accused Moore of assaulting her when she was a teenager and displayed a high school yearbook signed by Moore at a press conference with Gloria Allred, acknowledged that she had added the date in her own hand, though she still says Moore signed the yearbook.
This was immediately portrayed as a “forgery” by some influential voices on the right, including Fox News, which later retracted its headline saying Nelson had “forged” the inscription.