INDIANAPOLIS – A full week after reports of Roy Moore’s pedophilia first broke, all three candidates for the Indiana Republican Senate nomination have now finally called for the Alabama Senate candidate to withdraw from the race—assuming that’s what Congressman Rokita intended to say in his latest statement.
Congressman Rokita, then the only GOP contender who had yet to call on Moore to drop out, was asked again for his opinion on Roy Moore by WXIN’s Dan Spehler yesterday. His new response appeared to call on Moore to withdraw, but requires some parsing, considering that he doesn’t mention Moore or refer to the scandal directly:
“(The voters) deserve a clear choice. And because it’s so clouded & muddy now, I’m wondering whether they will have that clear choice. So to the extent that they’re not, yeah… We should make sure they do have that clear choice & have candidates that are able to present their ideas and not be distracted by the rest of it.”
All three Republicans now would seem to be on record calling for Moore to step down, but they have been reluctant at best. Not a single one responded to the scandal until Sunday, days after the news broke, and both Congressmen Messer and Rokita tried at first to rely on “if true” language that cast doubt on the women accusing Moore and put them increasingly out of step with their party. Only after several days of pressure and multiple inquiries did all three candidates join Joe Donnelly and Senator Young in calling on Moore to resign.
Even if Congressman Rokita’s tortured response is an effort to tell Moore to withdraw, he still needs to explain his campaign’s controversial memo from September claiming that he would take up Moore’s mantle in the Indiana race. Congressman Rokita has since tried to claim that the memo, entitled “What Roy Moore’s victory in Alabama means for… IN Senate primary,” was not about Roy Moore specifically. But he has yet to provide an appropriate answer for why his campaign would put out such a memo if he weren’t comfortable linking himself to the candidate, and people have noticed.
“While multiple women came forward to accuse Roy Moore of pedophila, it took Congressman Messer, Congressman Rokita, and Rep. Braun nearly a week to finally call on Moore to step down, and only after they were pushed and confronted at every turn,” said Will Baskin-Gerwitz, Senior Media Strategist for the Indiana Democratic Party. “Congressman Rokita has only done so once you parse his latest, tortured statement, and he still has to give Hoosiers a real answer for his outrageous memo. Were it not for the press and pressure from Hoosiers, these men might still be silent on the issue. That’s not the profile in courage voters are looking for.”
Roy Moore’s political blast radius is expanding rapidly, encompassing GOP candidates far beyond Alabama and pouring gasoline on the intense battle between establishment and nationalist Republicans.
Democrats have also issued statements attacking Virginia’s Corey Stewart, Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita and California Rep. Darrell Issa for failing to condemn Moore.
The Moore situation prevents a complicated choice for candidates facing tough 2018 primaries: Side with Moore and risk suburban swing voters think you’re defending a pedophile; call for him to drop out and risk hardcore conservative voters believing you’re buying into a liberal witch hunt.
Senate Republicans have sent Roy Moore a clear message: Drop out of your Senate race or run the risk of being the first member of the Senate to be expelled since the Civil War.
But Republicans running for the Senate aren’t sending the same message.
Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) has an affinity for Moore’s campaign. After Moore won the Alabama GOP Senate primary, Rokita’s campaign put out a memo saying the congressman’s Indiana Senate campaign aimed to mimic the movement Moore built in Alabama —but Rokita’s campaign has tried to distance itself from that memo in recent days.
WASHINGTON — The Roy Moore scandal isn’t only an issue in Alabama — it’s creating collateral damage problems for Republican candidates around the country.
GOP Senate hopefuls as far as away as Nevada and Michigan are already being forced to address the issue, putting them — especially if they’re facing a primary — in an awkward position between their base and the swing voters they’ll need in next year’s general election.
In Indiana, where Sen. Joe Donnelly, a Democrat, faces one of his party’s toughest re-election battles next year, Republicans are duking it out in a nasty primary. Democrats attacked one GOP candidate for putting out a memo earlier this year connecting his anti-establishment message to Moore’s. And they’re hitting the two others for saying Moore should step aside only if the allegations are proven true.
“You have no place seeking to represent Hoosiers in Congress if you can’t even put aside partisanship to condemn a reported pedophile,” said Indiana Democratic Party strategist Will Baskin-Gerwitz.