Scrambling to distance himself from Roy Moore’s surprising loss to Doug Jones in Tuesday’s Senate election in Alabama, the president reminded Americans on Wednesday morning that he backed a different candidate in the Republican primary:
The implication here is that Trump tried to warn his party about Moore, but voters insisted on a doomed candidate. It’s much more complicated than that. Trump famously said he “might have made a mistake” while campaigning for GOP establishment favorite Luther Strange during the primary, when most of Trump’s base clearly backed Moore. In fact, the president expressed these misgivings at a rally for Strange, implicitly giving Trump voters permission to vote for Moore.
Trump was also Moore’s biggest cheerleader by the end of the general election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, another Republican who backed Strange earlier in the year, never fully supported Moore, who was credibly accused of molesting and preying on teenage girls. McConnell was hardly a profile in courage—he refused to disavow Moore and said “we’re going to let the people of Alabama decide”—but Trump went all out with an unambiguous endorsement in the last week.
As many journalists have noted, Trump thus managed to lose this election twice.