While embracing President Donald Trump has become the main undercurrent in Alabama’s approaching GOP Senate race, major players in the “never-Trump” movement are quickly making Mo Brooks their preferred candidate.
Locked in a contentious struggle with sitting Sen. Luther Strange and former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, Brooks struggles to be among the top two vote-getters in Tuesday’s Republican primary, where he can then move to the general election.
But new polling shows it will be an uphill climb, with Moore taking a narrow lead over Strange, 31 to 29 percent. Brooks comes in third at 18 percent. The race for first is within the poll’s 5 percent margin of error.
So, to gain traction with Alabama voters — who overwhelmingly supported Trump in 2016 — the Huntsville Republican has taken every opportunity to proclaim he is “100 percent” behind the president’s agenda.
At the same time, however, those Republicans opposing Trump are fast lining up behind Brooks.
As the Huntsville Republican touts his “support” for the president, he also welcomes accolades from several factions of the unsuccessful never-Trump movement, many at the forefront in the effort to deny Trump the Republican nomination.
Last week, Brooks received an endorsement from the Senate Conservatives Fund, a group headed by Ken Cuccinelli, the former Virginia Attorney General, candidate for governor and leader in the never-Trump movement.
Cuccinelli, like Brooks, was an active surrogate for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s presidential bid.
#NeverTrump emerged during the 2016 Republican presidential primary after it was increasingly obvious the real estate mogul could actually win the nomination.
It began as a hodgepodge of GOP operatives and right-leaning independents working on a variety of fronts: opposition research against Trump, creating alliances to deny him votes, recruiting candidates for opposition bids as well as investigating legal challenges to filing deadlines to give those candidates traction with Republicans.
“We are very proud to endorse conservative Congressman Mo Brooks for the U.S. Senate in Alabama in the special election to replace Jeff Sessions,” the Senate Conservative Fund announced in a news release Aug. 3. “Mo Brooks is a principled leader, a member of the House Freedom Caucus, and the conservative candidate with the best chance of upsetting the DC establishment.”
In an email to supporters the same day, Cuccinelli also sang Brooks’ praises: “We’re also proud to help defend Mo Brooks against the false attacks being made by Senator Mitch McConnell and his political machine … There is no reason why McConnell should be spending millions of dollars to mislead voters in this race and we hope conservatives come together to fight back. Alabama Republicans have a chance to send Washington a powerful message by voting for Mo Brooks on August 15th.”
During the GOP convention fight July 2016, Cuccinelli, supporting a roll-call vote — which would have blocked block Trump’s nomination — “threw his credentials to the floor and walked out, claiming party leaders rammed through the voice vote in favor of the convention rules,” USA TODAY reported.
One day after the Senate Conservatives Fund endorsement came backing from FreedomWorks, the libertarian conservative group founded by the billionaire political activist Koch brothers, which had also been extremely critical of Trump once he announced his candidacy.
Talking to The Hill in July 2015, FreedomWorks CEO Adam Brandon cautioned against supporting Trump,: “I know for the last several years FreedomWorks activists have fought tirelessly against Obamacare, and Obamacare looks like a free market solution compared to what Donald Trump has said in the past he would like to see in our health care system. So, to me, that’s almost like a, just a no-go.”
On top of that, FreedomWorks has even hired Cuccinelli as general counsel.
The last day for Alabama voters to apply for an absentee primary ballot is Thursday. If there is no primary winner Aug. 15 — with 50 percent plus one — a runoff is Sept. 26; the general election is Dec. 12.
Other Republican candidates in the race include Dr. James Beretta, Joseph Breault, Alabama Christian Coalition president Randy Brinson, Mary Maxwell, Bryan Peeples and state Sen. Trip Pittman of Baldwin County.