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Cameron Joseph

Cameron Joseph is Talking Points Memo's senior political correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covers Capitol Hill, the White House and the permanent campaign. Previous publications include the New York Daily News, Mashable, The Hill and National Journal. He grew up near Chicago and is an irrationally passionate Cubs fan.

Articles by Cameron

PENSACOLA, Fla — President Trump may have been in Florida on Friday night, but his mind was roughly 15 miles away.

Trump heartily endorsed Alabama Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore during a rally just over the Alabama border, while taking swipes at a woman who accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was a teenager.

“This guy’s screaming ‘We want Roy Moore.’ He’s right,” Trump said, pointing into the crowd more than 40 minutes into a speech in the Pensacola Bay Center, a local hockey arena adorned with “Trump-Pence Merry Christmas” signs.

Trump then took aim at Beverly Young Nelson, who has said Moore sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old — one of a number of women who has accused Moore of sexual misconduct towards them when they were teenagers. Nelson admitted in a Friday interview that a she has added a bit to the high school yearbook inscription she had said was from Moore — though she said it was just marking where and when he’d signed it, not a change to the inscription itself.

“You know the yearbook? Did you see that? There was a little mistake made, she started writing things in the yearbook. Oh, what are we going to do. Gloria Allred, anytime you see her you know something’s going wrong,” he said, referring to Nelson’s feminist attorney and Democratic activist.

Moore is locked in a tight race with Democrat Doug Jones, though he’s pulled back into the lead in most public polls. Part of the reason he seems to have inched ahead since Thanksgiving in spite of all the accusations against him is Trump’s tacit endorsement right before the holiday — and full embrace and re-endorsement earlier this week.

Trump made it clear he knew who his audience was — the Alabamians in the building, and the nearly quarter of the state that shares a media market with Pensacola.

“By the way just so I can satisfy this to everyone out here, how many people out there are from the great state of Alabama?” he asked as roughly half the crowd cheered.

“We need somebody in that Senate seat who will vote for our Make America Great Again agenda which involves tough on crime, strong on borders, strong on immigration, we want great people coming into our country,” he said to cheers. “We want jobs, jobs, jobs. So get out and vote for Roy Moore.”

Moore wasn’t in the building, according to sources. But plenty of his supporters were around.

“I knew he was going to give a shout-out, but that was strong as new rope,” Trump’s Alabama state chairman Perry Hooper, a Moore supporter, told TPM after the speech. “He laid it out there. It’s about repealing Obamacare, cutting taxes, building the wall, and Doug Jones won’t be for any of that.”

Jeana Boggs, a Trump delegate at the Republican National Committee who worked for Moore for years and has been heavily involved in his campaign, sat next to Hooper in the second row in front of Trump’s podium.

“Since all the accusations came out, we consider that God’s going to take care of this, he’s going to expose all the lies,” she said, calling the race the “dirtiest” campaign she’s ever seen in five decades involved in campaigns, and saying that after multiple women accused Trump of sexual assault last fall it’s the “same road the liberals are taking” against Moore.

“We’re going to win. If God wants him there, he’s going to put him there,” she said.

Even some of the most ardent Trump backers who spoke to TPM, while never wavering in their support of Moore, weren’t sure how much Trump’s endorsement will help. But all were confident Moore will win, something that didn’t seem so sure a few weeks ago.

Penny Hall and her sister Lulu Raffilde backed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) in the primary against Moore, but said their support had nothing to do with Trump’s primary endorsement of Strange. 

They expressed a deep hostility to being told what to do by outsiders — even from a president they loved. That sentiment seems to be helping Moore, who has run hard against the Washington establishment, lumping in the media, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Democrats.

“Alabama’s going to do what Alabama wants to do, no matter what,” Hall said.

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Senate Democrats appear to have scored a recruiting coup that increases their slim chances at retaking the chamber.

Popular former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen (D) will run for Senate, according to two local newspapers, giving Democrats a heavy-hitting candidate for long-shot seat.

Bredesen, who served two terms and left office with strong approval ratings in 2010, gives Democrats a well-connected and well-liked candidate who likely has a singular ability to win in the Republican-heavy state.

Sen. Bob Corker’s (R-TN) decision to retire has created a slim opening for Democrats in the state. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) is facing off against former Rep. Steven Fincher (R-TN) in the GOP primary.

National Democrats have courted Bredesen for months to run, seeing him as their best — and perhaps only — chance to win the seat in a state where President Trump won by 26 percentage points. And it sounds like they’ve got their man.

Senate Democrats are mostly on defense this year due to an unfavorable map with multiple red-state incumbents facing tough reelections. But putting Tennessee on the map gives them one narrow path back to the majority — especially if they can pull off an upset in Alabama’s special election next week.

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Alabama Senate Democratic nominee Doug Jones came out swinging at Republican Roy Moore on Tuesday, drawing a sharp contrast between his career as a prosecutor and Moore, who faces allegations from multiple women of initiating sexual encounters when they were teenagers.

“I damn sure believe and have done my part to ensure that men who hurt little girls should go to jail — not to the U.S. Senate,” Jones said in a Tuesday campaign speech that took on a more combative tone than in the past.

Jones is best known for reopening a cold case and successfully prosecuting KKK members who bombed a black church in Birmingham, Ala. in 1963, killing four young girls.

Nine women have come forward to accuse Moore of inappropriate sexual actions, including one who was 16 when she says he violently sexually assaulted her and another who was 14 when she says he initiated a sexual encounter. Before those accusations, he was best known for getting thrown off the Alabama Supreme Court twice for failing to follow the rule of law — and for his hardline theocratic views that his interpretation of the Bible supersedes the Constitution and harsh anti-gay and anti-Muslim statements.

In spite of that, he’s climbed back into a virtual tie with Jones in recent public and private polls — and President Trump doubled down on his endorsement of Moore on Monday, possibly further boosting his campaign.

Jones’s pointed line wasn’t his only broadside against Moore during the speech.

He also warned a Moore win would “be bad for business in Alabama, bad for the economy, and bad for our country” — and attacked Moore for coauthoring a classroom curriculum that taught women shouldn’t run for public office.

“Roy Moore was already an embarrassment to this state before nine courageous women chose to share their deeply personal and disturbing encounters with him from a time when he was a thirty-something year old Assistant District Attorney and they were only teenagers, one as young as 14,” he said.

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The Republican National Committee isn’t exactly scrambling the jets for controversial Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore after all.

The committee has agreed to give just $50,000 to the Alabama Republican Party and will not send any staff in to help Moore in the final week of his campaign after a lengthy series of negotiations with Alabama Republicans, two RNC committee members tell TPM.

“The party is giving money only to the state party of Alabama at the request of the three national committee members of the state and the governor, and they’re giving them $50,000 — no staff, just $50,000,” one RNC committee member told TPM, saying those decisions came after “a lot” of negotiations with the Alabama members as well as within the committee.

In the extended negotiation both of Alabama’s Republican National Committee members, Alabama GOP Chair Terry Lathan and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) all lobbied the RNC to come back in to help Moore. The national party had previously pulled its support and ended a joint fundraising account after multiple women accused Moore of sexual misconduct last month. The RNC’s final commitment to come back in for Moore didn’t occur until President Trump decided to reaffirm his endorsement Monday.

“The 50k is going to AL GOP,” another RNC committee member texted TPM, while confirming that Ivey and the trio of Alabama’s RNC committee members had lobbied RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel and the national party to support Moore. “No RNC staff going to AL.”

That sum is a pittance in the realm of modern campaign funding, especially coming just a week before the election. The RNC’s decision not to send staffers also means it won’t help Moore in the biggest way it could, with a huge push to boost turnout for him using field staff. Those moves suggest that the RNC is doing the bare minimum to help Moore that it can get away with in light of Trump’s re-endorsement while attempting to keep its local members happy.

Moore has been outspent by Jones by a 10-to-1 margin, and a late infusion of cash and staff could help him close the gap and hang on to win in deep-red Alabama.

The RNC seems to be taking a much different approach than the president. Trump called Moore Monday morning to declare he’s still in Moore’s corner in spite of allegations from nine women that Moore acted inappropriately, including one who said he sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old and another who said he initiated a sexual encounter when she was just 14. While the White House has said Trump won’t head to Alabama for Moore before the election, he will campaign just over the state line in Pensacola, Florida, on Friday night in a town whose media market covers much of the southern third of Alabama. Trump allies including Steve Bannon are heading to the state to stump for Moore in the race’s closing days as well.

Moore has crept back into the race since Thanksgiving after the allegations knocked him flat, according to public and private polls, and those involved in the race believe both he and Democrat Doug Jones have a real chance to win.

Moore’s candidacy has torn the GOP apart, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walking back an earlier demand that Moore drop out of the race over the weekend and other Republicans lamenting Trump’s decision to come back in for Moore. Win or lose, he’s almost certain to create headaches for party leaders.

Spokesmen for the Republican National Committee did not respond to requests for comment, while Lathan told TPM in a text message that she “will not comment on the amount of funds” but planned to release a statement soon about the RNC’s recommitment to the race.

In that statement, Lathan said Romney McDaniel had contacted her and “confirmed that the RNC is transferring funds to the Alabama Republican Party for the Roy Moore campaign.”

“We are grateful for the RNC’s partnership with the ALGOP in this race. We are also thankful for President Trump’s recent show of support in highlighting the major policy differences between the left-wing Democrat, Doug Jones, and the constitutional conservative, Republican Roy Moore,” she continued.

Another Alabama Republican close to the negotiations disputed the $50,000 figure, arguing it was still in flux and predicting their spending might end up being more than that.

“I consider it more development and investigation than negotiation,” that source said about the party’s offer, sardonically describing the RNC’s “exodus” from Alabama after Moore’s scandal broke amounted to just three staffers.

That source also downplayed the RNC’s ability to help bolster Moore’s limited field operations in the final week.

“I’m not asking for staffers, it’s too late in the game,” said the source, who said the RNC had reached out to the Alabama state party about possibly helping and that Alabama Republican National Committeeman Paul Reynolds had called them back after Trump called Moore Monday morning to push them to make good on previous commitments for help.

It remains to be seen whether the committee will end up doing more for Moore than this minimal support. But for now, it doesn’t appear the cavalry is riding to Alabama.

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President Trump is riding to Roy Moore’s rescue in Alabama one week from election day.

Trump called Moore on Monday to heartily re-endorse him, a move that’s likely to help boost Moore as he seeks to survive multiple accusations of sexual misconduct that have put his Senate campaign in jeopardy in deep-red Alabama.

The Republican National Committee decided to follow suit after Trump’s call, TPM confirmed Monday night, after the committee had earlier suspended its support of Moore. Though it’s as yet unclear what exactly they’ll do for Moore, last-minute aid to help bolster his weak fundraising, limited TV ads and limited field operation could make a crucial difference.

Those steps, and a Friday Trump campaign rally just over the state line in Florida, could make the difference in a close election in a state where the president remains popular — and where boosting turnout is all that matters.

“The president’s approval rating goes off the paper it’s so high. When the president says ‘this is why I need a Republican from Alabama,’ that matters,” Perry Hooper, Trump’s Alabama state chairman, told TPM on Monday. “That message will resonate strongly in Alabama.”

According to Moore’s campaign, Trump called Moore a “fighter” and closed the phone call from Air Force One by declaring “Go get ’em, Roy!” The White House confirmed that Trump called Moore and reaffirmed his endorsement.

That came just after Trump touted Moore’s campaign for the first time since nine women came forward to accuse Moore of acting inappropriately towards them — including one who said Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her when she was just 14 years old and another who said he sexually assaulted her when she was 16.

Democrats admit Trump’s gambit could work in a close race, convincing reluctant Republicans loyal to Trump but worried about Moore’s temperament and past actions to turn out and vote on Dec. 12. The more aggressively Trump backs Moore, the more he could help.

Public and private polls show a tight race, and the biggest question on all sides remains who will turn out in an oddly timed election where Moore and Jones are the only candidates on the ballot. While Trump’s popularity has sagged nationally, he remains well-liked in Alabama, where he sports some of his highest approval numbers of any state, and is beloved by the most of the state’s GOP base. Moore has bounced back in the polls since Thanksgiving, pulling even with or ahead of Jones in recent surveys after trailing him in the scandal’s immediate aftermath, though strategists in both parties admit they have little idea who is likely to turn out next Tuesday.

And while Jones is outspending Moore 10-to-1 on advertising and has a much larger and more professionalized field operation, a bit of a push from Trump narrows Jones’ narrow path to victory even further in a state no Democratic candidate has won in the past decade.

“What Trump can do is help join the barrage of people cruelly attacking these accusers and normalize an accused pedophile because Trump has been very successful at attacking his own accusers,” one national Democrat monitoring the race told TPM. “If you’re a Trump supporter looking for an out [to vote for Moore], this gives you one.”

The White House has said the president won’t campaign in-state for Moore. But he’s doing the next-best thing, with a Friday campaign stop in Pensacola, Florida  — a site that’s just 15 miles from the Alabama border in a town whose media market covers roughly a quarter of the state. When TPM asked Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) who Trump was targeting with the rally, he didn’t mince words: “Alabama.”

Trump’s campaign has been making robocalls featuring Lara Trump advertising the event all over the state of Alabama, according to sources, and it’d be unlike Trump to avoid any mention of Moore during the event.

“Trump’s still got a good following down there,” Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said Monday on Capitol Hill.

Trump’s endorsement may help win the battle for the seat, but many in the GOP worry a Senator Moore could do further damage to the party’s image that has already been hurt by Trump.

“It’ll be difficult enough for Republicans without us being the party of Roy Moore,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), a frequent Trump critic, told TPM Monday night.

Trump’s allies have already been rallying to Moore’s side.

Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon will appear with Moore on Tuesday night, rejoining a man he backed during a hard-fought primary against Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), who had the backing of most of the GOP establishment and reluctant support from Trump. The grassroots group Bikers for Trump also rallied for Moore on Sunday.

Other Republicans who’d previously shunned Moore have softened their criticisms in recent days. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who’d called on Moore to drop out of the race in the wake of the allegations, said it should be up to “the voters of Alabama to decide” whether or not to elect him on Sunday.

Trump’s re-endorsement comes after weeks off GOP lobbying on the race, with top Trump advisers and allies including Bannon and Kellyanne Conway pushing for him to stand by Moore while others including McConnell fought hard for him to cut Moore loose. Trump decided the accusations against Moore mirrored those from 17 women who accused Trump of sexual harassment during last year’s campaign, sources told TPM.

“I talked to Jared Kushner, I talked to Eric Trump and Eric’s wife [Lara], [White House Deputy Chief of Staff] Rick Dearborn and others who work in the West Wing … they just know they need another Republican vote and they can’t afford to lose another Republican vote,” Hooper told TPM.

Trump’s campaign and the White House declined to discuss any further steps Trump might take for Moore.

Jones’ campaign believes that Trump can only make so much of an impact, pointing out that Moore beat his favored candidate in the primary and arguing that Alabama voters have made up their mind on Moore.

“This is an Alabama race. It doesn’t seem to matter what outside folks say, even if it’s the president it doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of impact. Roy Moore’s a pretty known quantity, people know why they’re worried about him or why they’re not,” Jones adviser Joe Trippi told TPM.

But Trippi conceded that the race is all about turnout rather than converting swing voters at this point — an area where Trump might have a big impact.

“This isn’t about changing anyone’s mind. I don’t believe that’s what they’re trying to do,” he said. “It’s about can they get people out to vote.”

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President Trump called Alabama Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore to double down on his previous endorsement on Monday morning.

“The President had a positive call with Judge Roy Moore during which they discussed the state of the Alabama Senate race and the President endorsed Judge Moore’s campaign,” White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah said in a statement.

That came after Moore’s wife Kayla posted on Facebook that Trump called Moore to offer his “full support.” Moore’s campaign followed up with a statement that Trump had ended the call with by saying “Go get ’em, Roy!”

Trump’s support could help galvanize the GOP base for Moore in a tough Senate race — and the more he does for Moore ahead of the Dec. 12 election, the better Moore’s chances of surviving accusations from nine women of sexual misconduct.

The call occurred not long after Trump endorsed Moore by name in an early Monday morning tweet, the first time the President has explicitly backed Moore’s campaign since nine women came forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct.

Trump came out to slam Democrat Doug Jones and indicate he still backed Moore’s campaign shortly before Thanksgiving, after nearly two weeks of silence on Moore as other top Republicans pulled their support.

The White House has said Trump won’t travel to Alabama to help Moore — but he’ll be holding a Friday night political rally in Pensacola, Fla., just over the border, whose media market covers much of southern Alabama. Trump’s team hasn’t ruled out other help like robocalls that could help galvanize the GOP base in the state and help Moore in the race’s final days.

Moore was quick to tout the re-endorsement (Trump had backed Moore immediately after he won the GOP primary).

“I am honored to receive the support and endorsement of President Donald Trump. President Trump knows that the future of his conservative agenda in Congress hinges on this election,”Moore said in a statement. “We had a good conversation over the phone today and are working together towards conservative victory on December 12.”

Recent public and private polls show a close race between Moore and Jones in the heavily Republican state.

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Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship wants to make the jump from prison to the Senate.

Blankenship was convicted of conspiring to violate mine safety and served a year in prison for his role in failing to prevent an accident at Massey’s Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 people in 2010. He was released from prison last May — and has now decided to run against a longtime foe, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), according to WHCS TV.

The former mine executive has remained unrepentant for his role in the accident, instead blaming federal regulators, while attacking Manchin for how he handled the explosion when he was governor.

Blankenship has been aggressively critical of Manchin for years, and last month put out a TV ad accusing Manchin of having “blood on his hands” — a line Manchin used about Blankenship during the trial.

Blankenship, an extremely wealthy self-funder, has long been a major player in West Virginia GOP politics. But given his conviction, he’s far from the favorite to face Manchin — Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrissey (R) are already in the race.

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The first woman who came forward to accuse Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore of inappropriate sexual behavior is firing back at his claims that she’s a liar — and questioning how low the hardline religious conservative will go to deny what she says happened.

Leigh Corfman says Moore seduced her when she was just 14 years old, undressing them both in a sexual encounter. After Moore personally called her a liar earlier this week, she fired back with an open letter to AL.com, the state’s largest newspaper group.

“I demand that you stop calling me a liar and attacking my character. Your smears and false denials, and those of others who repeat and embellish them, are defamatory and damaging to me and my family,” she says in the letter. “I am telling the truth, and you should have the decency to admit it and apologize.”

Eight other women have come forward to accuse Moore of inappropriate sexual behavior — including one who says he sexually assaulted her when she was 16 years old — and others have come forward to say it was well known in Moore’s hometown that he sought to date teenage girls. Moore’s campaign has responded by questioning Corfman’s claims as well as her character while providing almost no evidence to back up their own claims, and Moore himself went after her and the other accusers on Monday.

“I do not know these women,” he said Monday. “I have never engaged in sexual misconduct with anyone. This is simply dirty politics.”

That was the final straw for Corfman, who hand-delivered the open letter to the newspaper group on Tuesday.

“When you personally denounced me last night and called me slanderous names, I decided that I am done being silent. What you did to me when I was 14-years old should be revolting to every person of good morals. But now you are attacking my honesty and integrity. Where does your immorality end?” she writes in the letter.

The special election to fill Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ old seat in the Senate is Dec. 12, and recent public and private polling shows a tight race between Moore and Democrat Doug Jones, with the numerous allegations dogging Moore’s campaign in the solidly Republican state.

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Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore (R) has regained a slight lead against Democrat Doug Jones in the first post-Thanksgiving poll, a sign that while the multiple allegations of sexual misconduct have bruised his campaign, he’s not done yet.

Moore leads Jones by 49 percent to 44 percent in a new online survey from Change Research, reversing a small 3-point lead Jones had held in the pollster’s first survey after the allegations against Moore surfaced two weeks ago.

The poll shouldn’t be taken as gospel: It was conducted completely online using a methodology some pollsters are still wary of; no single poll should be used to fully judge a race; and the pollster isn’t well-established in the industry, so there’s no lengthy track record to judge it by.

But the survey provides the first public numbers of where the race is since Alabama voters have had time to digest the accusations of nine women that Moore acted inappropriately towards them, including one who accused him of sexual assault when she was 16 years old and another who was 14 when she says Moore initiated a sexual encounter with her. Moore has denied the allegations.

Polls conducted in the immediate aftermath of the accusations and before Thanksgiving painted a mixed picture of the race, with Moore leading by as much as 10 and Jones leading by as much as 6 points, though all pollsters showed a shift towards Jones since the allegations surfaced.

Moore held a narrow 47 percent to 45 percent lead in a one-day Strategy Research survey released last Monday, numbers that were actually good news for Jones since that pollster had found him trailing by 11 in its previous two surveys.

The online poll of 1,868 self-reported Alabama registered voters was conducted from Nov. 26-27.

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President Trump won’t campaign with Alabama Senate candidate and accused child molester Roy Moore after floating the idea last week, according to the Associated Press.

A White House official tells the AP that Trump won’t head to Alabama to help Moore, whom Trump is standing by even as other party leaders including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) have moved to dump him.

Trump stuck by his endorsement of Moore last week even though nine women have come forward to accuse Moore of sexual misconduct — including a number who say they had encounters with Moore when they were teenagers. In a brief conversation with reporters, Trump questioned whether those women were telling the truth, attacked Moore’s opponent, Democrat Doug Jones, and said he’d let them know this week whether or not he’d stump with Moore.

He’s doubled down on the anti-Jones attacks in recent days.

Even if Trump won’t campaign with Moore, his support is providing cover for the controversial candidate as he tries to weather the storm of accusations that he sexually assaulted a 16-year-old girl, initiated a consensual sexual encounter with a 14-year-old, and regularly hit on teenagers. It’s unclear whether Trump will go further than his current tweets backing Moore and record robocalls or campaign ads for the embattled Republican, whose campaign struggles could risk the GOP’s control of the Senate.

White House officials didn’t immediately respond to requests from TPM to confirm the AP’s report.

Moore, for his part, has blamed everyone from Democrats to journalists to McConnell and establishment Republicans for trying to scuttle his campaign.

In a new TV spot, he attacks all three groups while not mentioning Jones.

“Roy Moore has been intensely scrutinized, and not a hint of scandal,” the ad’s narrator says. “But, four weeks before the election, false allegations — a scheme by liberal elites and the Republican establishment to protect their big government trough.”

Most polls taken since the scandal broke two weeks ago show a close race, with the accusations taking a toll on Moore.

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