President Donald Trump’s visit to Pensacola Friday night, to stump for an Alabama U.S. Senate candidate, is leaving some scratching their heads.
Trump’s rally for Republican Roy Moore, who faces Democrat Doug Jones in the December 12 special election, will be held at the Pensacola Bay Center, about 15 miles from the Alabama state line. This will be the Trump’s fourth stop in Pensacola. The first two were at the Bay Center, including one in January of 2016 during the primary season. His third visit at Maritime Park’s Hunter Amphitheater during his campaign as the Republican presidential nominee.
But why Pensacola for this?
William Stewart, Professor Emeritus in Political Science at the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa, says it could be the city’s proximity to the state line, and also could be a way for Trump to keep Roy Moore at arm’s length.
“If [Trump] doesn’t actually campaign in Alabama, and somehow Mr. Jones should win, then the defeat of Moore would not be as embarrassing as if he were on Alabama soil and campaigning for Moore,” said Stewart.
Moore was removed twice from Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, and is now under fire for allegations, that he attempted to initiate sexual relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 30s.
Moore denies all.
“These allegations are completely false; they’re malicious,” said Moore at a recent campaign stop. “Specifically, I do not know any of these women; nor have I engaged in sexual misconduct with any woman. This is simply dirty politics.”
Stewart says Alabama elections had been decided by Alabama voters since statehood in 1819; but things started changing when the balance of power began to shift about a half-century ago.
“From the mid-1870s until the 1960s we only had Democrats who were elected,” says Stewart. “Since that time, we’ve seen a steady Republican buildup. But presidents and national media have not gotten involved in Alabama elections as they have during this cycle.”
And if, by stumping for Moore, the President is trying to draw attention away from Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, it would come as no big surprise to Stewart.
“People’s attention span is not so great that they can focus on several different topics at the same time,” Stewart said. “So that would take some of the pressure off of Trump, regarding the Mueller investigation and other matters.”
On Monday, Moore received the full endorsement of the President, and in turn, the Republican National Committee reversed its three-week-old ban on funding the campaign. And it appears that GOP senators opposing Moore’s election at first, such as Susan Collins of Maine, are starting to fall into line behind him.
“[Collins] said that anyone who meets the constitutional qualifications, such as age and state residency, has to be seated,” said Stewart. “Because they can’t bring in something that happened several decades ago.”
Many are asking how Roy Moore has lived such a charmed political life, given his past. Professor Emeritus William Stewart says one reason could be Moore’s ‘gift of gab'.”
“Roy Moore’s persuasive speech has enabled him to capture the imagination of people,” Stewart said. “And cause them to vote for him despite his inability to hang on, for example, to the office of Chief Justice.”
Accommodating President Trump’s rally took some reshuffling of the Bay Center schedule. The Pensacola Ice Flyers were to play there Friday night, but the game with the Knoxville Ice Bears has been moved to Monday night, December 11.