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How the Roy Moore scandal raises GOP concerns for 2018

Prominent Republicans have called for Roy Moore to abandon his Senate run as another woman comes forward to say he assaulted her as a teen. Can the Alabama candidate weather these accusations of wrongdoing? Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR join Judy Woodruff to discuss this latest GOP rift.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    And back here in Washington, we’re joined by our Politics Monday team, Amy Walter of The Cook Political Report and Tamara Keith of NPR.

    Welcome to you both.

    So, Tamara, we just heard from Alabama, what people are saying down there. What are you hearing here in Washington about this, this new accuser, a woman who came forward today in New York, is from Alabama, but also the senators?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yes, so this was — this was different.

    You know, the past allegations came in a newspaper article. This is live on television video of an accuser who is deeply emotionally distraught and offering very specific details about this event that happened 40 years ago.

    And, almost immediately, the reaction from senators was prompt. And you have Cory Gardner, who is the head of the NRSC, who is responsible for getting Republicans elected in 2018, saying that Roy Moore should step aside, and, if he doesn’t, expulsion is the direction they would go, trying to expel him from the Senate.

    And that seems to be the way it’s going. There are a lot of different scenarios that have been gamed out in Washington in recent days. But it seems like Republican senators are starting to consolidate behind that idea.

    And just moments ago, reporting from the hallways of Capitol Hill, I’m seeing that Luther Strange is out giving interviews. He’s the current Republican senator from Alabama, temporarily, saying that he thinks a write-in candidacy is unlikely at this time.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And that is what we were hearing, Amy, from Don Dailey in Birmingham, saying that was what the word is there.

    It sounds like senators, the Republicans in Washington, now expect that Roy Moore could very well win this race.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

    Republicans have almost a no-win situation here with Roy Moore. If he wins, they have then the reality in front of them, as Tam pointed out, that many of these senators now calling for his expulsion, or at least one of the most prominent senators there, Senator Cory Gardner, saying, we will expel him from the United States Senate.

    If he loses, then, of course, they are now down to an only one-seat majority. They’re trying to pass tax reform, which then would be the barest margin, if they don’t pass it by the middle of December. And so this would put so many things in jeopardy.

    But, as I said, regardless, whether he wins or loses, Republicans are in a very, very difficult place.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    What kind of territory are we in, Tam, when we are talking about expelling a senator who has just been elected? Do we know yet how that works?

  • Tamara Keith:

    Yeah, potentially reversing the will of the voters.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Exactly.

  • Tamara Keith:

    There is a process for it. And the reason that these Republican senators are even contemplating this is because this isn’t just about Alabama. This isn’t just about 2017. This is about 2018 and 2020.

    And if they were to have a fellow senator who is accused of these very serious things serving side by side with them, it would become a campaign issue in every single campaign.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So, it may be — it may be that he flies, is acceptable in Alabama, Amy, but their concern is about what this looks like for the rest of the country.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

    And I think you are already going to see that Democrats are going to try to attach Republican candidates and Republican incumbents to Roy Moore. They’re already asking incumbents and candidates to come out publicly and say what their opinion is of Roy Moore.

    And so he will become in many ways sort of a poster child for the Republican Party, that is — if you are Republicans, you are worried that you are going to see this person and what he has done in campaign ads all through 2018, even if you have come out and said, I would like to see him gone.

  • Judy Woodruff: 

    Talk about a split Republican Party.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes. And this is a bigger challenge, I think, if you just sort of step back for a minute, which is what — the difference between what we are hearing from Alabama in the report you just had before us and what you are hearing in Washington.

    This has been sort of a constant under the Trump era of the divide in the Republican Party between the so-called establishment here in Washington and Republicans on the ground.

    The other person that is helping on the ground, of course, is Steve Bannon and Breitbart News, who are encouraging Roy Moore to stay in this race, that are discrediting the women, are trying to find ways…

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Far-right extremist news site.

  • Amy Walter:

    Yes.

    Trying to find ways to discredit the women, discredit The Washington Post. There was a time, Judy, when if a national news organization came in and uncovered serious crimes about a candidate, that would be taken very, very seriously.

    Now, because it came from The Washington Post, it is discredited. Same with Washington itself. There was a time when a United States senator saying it’s time for to you step down would mean they would step down.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Would be the kiss of death.

  • Amy Walter:

    Absolutely.

    That matters zero. And so it’s more than just this race, Judy. It goes to show that, whether he comes here or not, there is a new world order that is coming to the way that we do politics. And it is going to reverberate far beyond this race.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, while all this has been going on, Tam, this has sucked a lot of oxygen out of the room, but there is this tax reform plan the Republicans are trying to get done. There is a House version. There’s a Senate version.

    What does it look like right now?

  • Tamara Keith:

    And just to talk about briefly how much oxygen has been sucked out, Mitch McConnell was in Kentucky doing an event about tax reform, when he got asked about Roy Moore and ended up making news about Roy Moore, and no one is talking about taxes.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Nobody even knows what he said. Well…

  • Tamara Keith:

    Well, somebody must know. But that didn’t make the news tonight.

    So , the House is expected this week to pass their tax bill, and — with Republican votes alone, obviously — and the Senate is working its way through it. They’re marking it up. It is in committee.

    They — at the moment the House and Senate are on schedule with this very aggressive schedule. But there are a lot of things to work out between now and actually having something that could get to the president’s desk.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    A lot of things to work out, Amy, but a lot of pressure on Republicans to get this done.

  • Amy Walter:

    A lot of pressure.

    When I talk to Republicans, they say, look, this bill may not be the greatest thing in the world, but if we don’t pass it, we are doomed, because we will have completed an entire term with a Republican House and Senate and White House and have absolutely nothing to show for it. It would be a disaster.

    So, they’re willing to take the risk on a bill that right now, at best, Judy, is polling in the mediocre territory. Voters are pretty ambivalent about it. They would rather take the chance with that than take a chance of not having anything to talk about in 2018.

    It’s a very difficult place that they’re sitting in right now.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And we’re looking at that as we get ready for Thanksgiving. And we will talk about that next week.

  • Amy Walter:

    Next week, exactly.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Amy Walter, Tamara Keith, Politics Monday, thank you.

  • Tamara Keith:

    You’re welcome.

  • Amy Walter:

    You’re welcome.

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