I’m going to set to the side for the moment the substance of the new story about Roy Moore. It speaks for itself and we have initial reporting on the political impact here. But what also seems clear is that while the GOP can disown him it really can’t replace him.
State law appears to leave no alternative to Roy Moore’s name appearing on the ballot. Luther Strange, the incumbent appointed senator who lost to Moore, can’t appear on the ballot because of the state’s “sore loser” law. However, he could appear as a write-in. This release from the Alabama Secretary of State states explicitly that write-in votes are valid even if the person receiving the vote would be disqualified from appearing on the ballot under the ‘sore loser’ law.
We are already seeing some calls for Strange to run as a “write-in” candidate. That seems legally feasible but also an extremely narrow path to winning the race. The Democrat Doug Jones is already running pretty strong against Moore, against the extremely low standard of Alabama Democrats. So it seems basically certain that Moore would have to drop out of the race for Strange to have a shot. Otherwise, you’re dividing the GOP vote, even if Moore’s support might be greatly diminished.
At least the first indication is that Moore is in no mood to step aside. He’s calling the accusations a “completely false and a desperate political attack.”
I doubt Moore steps down. He does not strike me as a step down kind of guy. What’s more, at least some of his top supporters are already saying it’s not a big deal. At least for the moment, the accusations are from three decades ago. Moore’s base is fundamentalist Christians from the Bible Belt. There’s a long history of this community being highly forgiving toward ‘sins’ that are in the past and repented of. More specifically, I think it’s debatable whether his supporters will view it as a serious ‘sin’. Regardless I don’t get the sense his core supporters will see this as enough to dump him. So I doubt he steps down. As long as he doesn’t see a catastrophic loss of support among his own supporters, why would he back out? He got as far as he has against the entire national party.
The most likely upshot of all of this is that Moore becomes too radioactive for national Republicans too endorse him and possibly to get national money but still remains on the ticket and running for the office.