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Alabama primary runoff shows Trump’s base had a different idea

Alabama’s Republican primary runoff ended in a victory for Roy Moore over incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, after a race that pitted President Trump against his anti-establishment base. William Brangham reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Sticking with politics, Alabama Republicans voted yesterday to nominate firebrand candidate Roy Moore for a U.S. Senate seat, a rebuke to President Trump and the GOP establishment.

    William Brangham begins our coverage.

  • ROY MOORE, Republican Senate Candidate:

    I certainly support President Trump's agenda.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Roy Moore took a cable TV victory lap today. The Alabama GOP's newly minted Senate nominee celebrated his win from yesterday, and even promised to support the president, who campaigned against him.

  • ROY MOORE:

    Well, I don't think the president knew me. And I think that when he gets to know me, that he will understand that I do support a very conservative agenda for this country.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    For his part today, President Trump suggested he was encouraged by the prospect of a Senator Moore coming to Washington.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    Well, we have a man who's going to be a great senator. And I'm very happy with that. I spoke to him last night. I never met him. I never spoke to him. I'm very happy with him.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Last night, Moore prevailed in a primary runoff against Luther Strange, the incumbent. Strange had the backing of not just Mr. Trump, but also Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. But Alabama voters had a different idea.

  • SEN. LUTHER STRANGE, R-Ala.:

    I'm telling you, those seas, the political seas, the political winds in this country right now are very hard to navigate. They're very hard to understand.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Strange had only been in the seat since February. He was appointed to replace Jeff Sessions when Sessions was named attorney general.

    Moore, meanwhile, is well-known in Alabama as a staunchly conservative Christian evangelical. He served as the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, but on two different occasions was removed from his duties. The first time was in 2003, when Moore refused to remove a Ten Commandments display from the lobby of a state courthouse.

    And then last year, he was suspended permanently after urging other judges in the state to defy federal court rulings on same-sex marriage.

    Moore also faced criticism earlier this month when he used crude, derogatory terms to describe certain minority groups.

  • ROY MOORE:

    Now we got blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    The runoff between Moore and Strange pitted some top Republicans against one another, each side claiming the mantle of President Trump and his agenda.

    Stumping for Moore were former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

    FORMER GOV. SARAH PALIN, 2008 Republican Vice Presidential Nominee: The loudest message to the swamp, are you ready to tell them, here comes the judge?

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    And former chief White House strategist, now Breitbart executive chairman, Stephen Bannon.

  • STEPHEN BANNON, Former White House  Chief Strategist:

    You're going to get an opportunity to tell them what you think of the elites that run this country.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    Stumping for Strange, not just the president, but Vice President Mike Pence as well.

    However, while the president was in Alabama last week for Strange, he admitted in passing that his endorsement came with some hesitation.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    I might have made a mistake. And I will be honest. I might have made a mistake.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    It was a moment one outside group immediately seized on.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    I might have made a mistake. I don't know him. I don't know him. I don't know him.

  • SEN. LUTHER STRANGE:

    The president supports me.

  • PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP:

    But I don't know him.

  • DOUG JONES:

    Please stand with me.

  • WILLIAM BRANGHAM:

    In the general election, Moore now faces Democrat Doug Jones, a former federal prosecutor with a strong record on civil rights. That vote will be held in December.

    For the PBS NewsHour, I'm William Brangham.

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