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Sessions tries to weather attacks from Trump as he vies for former Senate seat

August will mark the fifth anniversary of when Jeff Sessions first publicly donned a "Make America Great Again" hat and became the first Republican senator to endorse Donald Trump for the presidency in a rally in his home state of Alabama. Sessions was rewarded for his loyalty by being nominated and confirmed as attorney general for the Trump administration.

But the relationship quickly soured in early 2017, when Sessions recused himself from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, culminating with Mr. Trump unceremoniously firing Sessions after the 2018 midterm elections. Now, Sessions is vying for his old Senate seat back, even though the president he served attacks him repeatedly and endorsed his opponent.

Sessions will face off against former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville in Tuesday's Republican primary runoff in Alabama. The primary was held in March, but the runoff election was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Democrat Doug Jones won the special election to replace Sessions in the Senate in 2017.

Although Tuberville is a political newcomer, he enjoys strong name recognition because of the president's endorsement and his high profile position as Auburn's football coach. Tuberville received 33.4% of the vote in the March primary, compared to 31.6% of the vote earned by Sessions. As neither candidate earned more than 50% of the vote, the two advanced to a runoff.

Sessions has highlighted his ties to the president throughout his campaign, but Mr. Trump has been quick to insult his former attorney general. In May, Mr. Trump urged Alabamans "do not trust Jeff Sessions," saying "he let our country down." Mr. Trump later tweeted that Sessions had "no courage" and "ruined many lives" by choosing to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

The president repeated his support for Tuberville in a tweet on Saturday morning.

"Big Senate Race in Alabama on Tuesday. Vote for @TTuberville, he is a winner who will never let you down. Jeff Sessions is a disaster who has let us all down. We don't want him back in Washington!" Mr. Trump wrote. Tuberville responded to Mr. Trump's tweet, saying "together we are going to fire @JeffSessions once and for all and send @DougJones packing!"

Meanwhile, Sessions has continued to insist that he is the right man for the job, making personal appeals to voters.

"I'm calling on the people of Alabama and I'm saying this. You know me. You know I can be trusted," Sessions said during a campaign stop last week, according to the Associated Press.

A poll conducted by Auburn University this month shows Tuberville leading Sessions with 47% support from Republican voters, compared to 31% support for Sessions.

Jones is considered to be one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators in this election cycle. After Sessions vacated his seat, former Governor Robert Bentley appointed Luther Strange, who had been the state attorney general investigating Bentley. Bentley, who was on the brink of impeachment, resigned shortly after appointing Strange. Both men have denied any wrongdoing.   

Strange then lost the Republican primary to former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore  , an controversial political figure who had been removed twice from the bench before winning the primary runoff. Then just weeks before the special December election, Moore was accused of sexual misconduct against several underage girls. Buoyed by surprisingly strong turnouts among Democrats and African Americans, as well solid support from younger voters, moderates, and women, Jones eked out a close victory over Moore. 

Jones became the first Democrat elected to the seat in over a quarter century, but he is unlikely to fare as well against Tuberville or Sessions as he did against Moore in deep-red Alabama. 

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