President Trump is heading to Alabama for a last-minute campaign rally for appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), a move that sets off a very public split with former top adviser Steve Bannon.
Trump announced over the weekend that he’ll stump for Strange on Saturday, just days before his primary runoff election against former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), a controversial religious conservative who has the support of Bannon and many of Trump’s other right-wing allies.
I will be in Huntsville, Alabama, on Saturday night to support Luther Strange for Senate. "Big Luther" is a great guy who gets things done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 16, 2017
Trump endorsed Strange early in the primary, but had done nothing to help him since he and Moore made the runoff — his only public comments since then on the race were praising both candidates in a single tweet after the election. That had establishment conservatives nervous that he’d sit things out rather than back Strange, with some even worrying about him switching his endorsement to the more rabble-rousing Moore.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has spent heavily for Strange in the race, and can now breathe a sigh of relief that Trump will be a help and not a hindrance to him in the primary’s closing days. Bannon, on the other hand, had seemingly been expecting Trump to stay out of the race. He’s gone all-in for Moore, setting up the contest as the first battle in his planned primary war against McConnell and the GOP establishment.
Strange has trailed every public poll of the race, but has been within striking distance in some surveys. Trump remains immensely popular in Alabama, especially in GOP circles, and a full-throated endorsement on the eve of the primary could make a big difference in a close race.