Following allegations that a Republican congressional candidate in Alabama sexually assaulted a 14-year-old girl decades ago, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called on Roy Moore to "step aside." Speaking to reporters in Kentucky on Monday, McConnell said he believes the woman who alleged Moore acted inappropriately toward her when she was a teen and he was in his 30s. Now, McConnell claims Republican leaders are contemplating a write-in option for the Dec. 12 special election.
Along with the Senate majority leader, multiple Republicans have said Moore should exit the race after a Washington Post story published Thursday alleged he made sexual advances to four teenage girls as an adult (Moore denies all the allegations). Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted Sunday: "He is unfit for office and should step aside. Americans are better than this."
However, Moore claims the allegations are a Democratic ploy to derail his campaign and used them as a fundraising tactic. "The forces of evil will lie, cheat, steal — even inflict physical harm — if they believe it will silence and shut up Christian conservatives like you and me," he wrote in a fundraising email asking for an "emergency contribution" the same night the Washington Post story hit.
In the following days, Moore's denials took different shapes. He told Fox News' Sean Hannity on Friday that the claims were "completely false and misleading." Later in the same interview, he said: “I’m not going to dispute anything, but I don’t remember anything like that. I don’t remember ever dating any girl without the permission of her mother."
The Washington Post named Moore's accusers and had two dozen additional sources backing them up. Nevertheless, Moore and his supporters claim it was all made up to keep a conservative out of office. In fact, 37 percent of evangelical voters in the area said they're more likely to vote for Moore now, according to a JMC Analytics poll.
Despite calls to step down from powerful Republicans he would have to work with in the Senate, Moore has not indicated that he's willing to do so.
"These allegations came only four-and-a-half weeks before the election,” Moore said on Saturday. "That’s not a coincidence. It’s an intentional act to stop a campaign ... We do not intend to let the Democrats or the establishment Republicans or anybody else behind this story stop this campaign."
Along with questioning why the allegations surfaced so close to the election, Moore has also said it's "absolutely unbelievable" that "grown women would wait 40 years" to come forward about alleged child abuse. The four women named in the Washington Post story claim Moore made sexual advances when they were between the ages of 14 and 18, which The Post says the women found "troubling as they got older."
As McConnell confirmed Monday, Republican leaders are considering supporting a write-in candidate for the upcoming election. "That's an option we're looking at, whether or not there is someone who can mount a write-in campaign successfully," McConnell said. Politico reports Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski is encouraging Alabama Sen. Luther Strange to think about the possibility.
Murkowski famously won back her seat in Congress as a write-in candidate in 2010, when she lost the party nomination to a Tea Party candidate. She became the first U.S. Senate candidate to win a write-in campaign in at least 50 years.
Republicans could back a write-in candidate whether Moore steps aside or not. Although Alabama is a strong red state, offering two conservative choices on the ballot has the potential to split the Republican vote and result in a Democratic victory. And after a weekend news cycle focused on the allegations against Moore, his opponent, Doug Jones, had pulled ahead in the polls by Monday.