Embattled former judge and one-time Senate candidate Roy Moore is throwing his hat back into the ring and running for Senate in Alabama, looking to defeat incumbent Doug Jones. Moore, a Republican, narrowly lost to Jones in a 2017 special election to fill former Attorney General Jeff Sessions' vacant Senate seat.
"I fought for our country in Vietnam. I fought for our country and its laws as Chief Justice. I fought for morality to preserve its moral institutions. And I'm ready to do it again. And yes, I will run for the United States Senate in 2020," Moore said at a press conference in Montgomery on Thursday.
"Can I win? Yes, I can win."
During his Thursday press conference, Moore said he would continue to "stand up for the U.S. Constitution, stronger border security" and the "right to keep and bear arms."
Taking a page out of President Trump's playbook, Moore also lambasted Democrats for carrying out what he claimed was "evidence of intent to disrupt a state Senate race." He said such "collusion" by Democratic operatives in Washington would not be tolerated and claimed Jones was the "beneficiary of election hacking."
Moore's 2017 campaign was widely condemned by both Republicans and Democrats after numerous women came forward with detailed claims of sexual misconduct against Moore when he was a judge. Moore denied any wrongdoing.
Moore's troubled past
Once the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, Moore has been removed from the bench twice. The first removal came after he defied a federal judge's order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state judicial building. Then, after he was elected again, a judicial discipline panel permanently suspended Moore in 2016, ruling that he urged probate judges to deny marriage licenses to same-sex couples in defiance of the federal courts.
Moore later faced off against Luther Strange in the Alabama primary. Despite video surfacing of Moore saying at a speech shortly before the primary that "we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting," Moore defeated Strange, who had been endorsed by President Trump.
But it was the multitude of sexual misconduct allegations that further tarnished his less-than-glowing career, leading to his narrow loss in the 2017 special election. Several women came forward during Moore's campaign alleging he had touched or kissed them inappropriately when they were teens and he was an adult.
Moore repeatedly denied he ever made unwanted sexual advances to teenage girls, chalking up the accusations to "dirty politics."
"We see malicious and false attacks which reflect the immorality of our time," Moore said at a rally in the final days of his campaign.
Despite his second shot at the Senate, Moore has been dealt an early blow by Mr. Trump, who suggested last month Moore can't win the Senate seat.
"Republicans cannot allow themselves to again lose the Senate seat in the Great State of Alabama," the president tweeted. "This time it will be for Six Years, not just Two. I have NOTHING against Roy Moore, and unlike many other Republican leaders, wanted him to win. But he didn't, and probably won't. ... If Alabama does not elect a Republican to the Senate in 2020, many of the incredible gains that we have made during my Presidency may be lost, including our Pro-Life victories. Roy Moore cannot win, and the consequences will be devastating....Judges and Supreme Court Justices!"
Mr. Trump endorsed Moore's 2017 campaign, despite the sexual misconduct allegations. The RNC had been reluctant to back him, but eventually conceded and threw their support behind him. Mr. Trump even recorded a robocall and tweeted on the day of the election "Vote Roy Moore!"
In an interview with CBS News Washington correspondent Major Garrett at Mr. Trump's reelection campaign launch in Orlando this week, Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale said, "Look, we'd be — hav[ing] the best candidate [in] Alabama would be the best thing we could have," but refused to say if that candidate could be Moore.
Moore, meanwhile, has been confident in his second attempt at political office. The candidate, who said back in March we was "seriously considering" another run, tweeted late last month that if he did indeed run, he would beat Jones.
A poll of Alabama Republicans in April showed Moore leading with 27%, with Reps. Mo Brooks, Bradley Byrne and Gary Palmer trailing just behind him.
But the Republican Party continues to minimize Moore's political ambitions, painting the Alabaman as underperforming Mr. Trump in each county by an average of 10 points, according to a Republican strategist.
Republicans are also reportedly wary that Moore's second shot could potentially boost Democratic turnout. African American voters, who make up a sizable portion of the Alabama Democratic party, voted overwhelmingly for Jones 96 percent to four percent, and African American voters made up three in ten voters in 2017, according to a CBS News exit poll.
With his win, defeating Moore by a margin of just over 21,000 votes, Jones became the first Democrat to win a Senate seat in the deeply red state since 1992. Jones took Thursday's announcement as a fundraising opportunity, telling supporters on social media simply: "Roy Moore? Really? Here we go again."
The Republican primary is set for March 3, 2020. GOP Rep. Bradley Byrne and former Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville have already announced they'll be running, and more Republican candidates could jump in.
In a statement released shortly after Moore's announcement, Byrne's campaign manager called the Republican Congressman "a fighter who has won contested primaries before and we are ready to win this fight."
"We already have more than 200 strong conservatives across the state on our Grassroots Leadership Team. We've had over 600 volunteers sign up since we announced. Our campaign will win and defeat Doug Jones in 2020," Seth Morrow, Bradley Byrne Campaign Manager, added in a statement to CBS.
Alabama's Secretary of State John Merrill has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission but will not decide if he is running until the end of June.
Asked what he'd like to do differently this time around, Moore told reporters on Thursday: "I would like to make more personal contact with people."