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Trump takes center stage in fractious Senate race in Alabama for Luther Strange

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President Donald Trump injected himself into a bitter U.S. Senate primary fight in Alabama on Friday, putting to the test his ability to enlist his anti-establishment voters to come to the aid of an endangered Republican incumbent.

Trump spoke at a rally in Huntsville, Alabama, on behalf of Senator Luther Strange, who was appointed after the seat was left vacant when Jeff Sessions was named Trump’s attorney general.

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Strange is trying to ward off a challenge from Roy Moore, an arch-conservative former state Supreme Court justice, in a runoff election next week. Polls show the race to be close.

Trump appeared on stage as the latest Republican effort to repeal Obamacare looked to be faltering after Republican Senator John McCain announced his opposition to a measure to repeal and replace the healthcare law. McCain’s opposition could spell doom for the bill, which the Senate may vote on it next week, because Republicans can afford to lose few votes among their own.

When Trump mentioned McCain’s name in front of the arena crowd of more than 7,000, attendees booed lustily.

Trump expressed optimism that the bill could still pass. “We’re going to do it eventually,” he said.

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He also continued to engage in a rhetorical sparring match with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, again referring to him as “Rocket Man” to the crowd’s cheers.

“We can’t have madmen out there shooting rockets all over the place,” Trump said.

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The evening was reminiscent of the raucous campaign rallies that helped define Trump’s insurgent presidential candidacy, and the president’s popularity in this region appeared undiminished. As he has frequently done in such settings, he spent a significant portion of his remarks discussing his surprise victory last November.

He also again rejected any suggestion that his triumph was aided by Russian interference in the election.

“Russia did not help me. That I can tell you,” Trump said. “Are there any Russians in the audience?”

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Trump, however, was in Huntsville not to back the maverick candidate Moore, but instead the establishment favorite, Strange.

A win by Moore in Alabama could embolden other insurgent candidates to challenge Republican incumbents in next year’s congressional elections, and perhaps give an edge to Democrats in some of those races.

Trump’s involvement in the Alabama race could help bolster his strained relationship with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose help the president needs to advance his agenda on taxes, healthcare and immigration.

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McConnell has strongly supported Strange, viewing him as a reliable vote to further the Republican Party’s legislative agenda.

Hours before Trump was due to arrive in Alabama, his housing secretary, Ben Carson, issued a statement in support of Moore as “truly someone who reflects the Judeo-Christian values that were so important to the establishment of our country.”

“I wish him well and hope everyone will make sure they vote on Tuesday,” Carson said, stopping short of asking people in Alabama to vote for Moore.

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Republican leaders fear that candidates who are too far to the right could lose to Democrats, who are seeking to wrest control of the House and the Senate in the 2018 midterm elections.

Strange, 64, and dubbed “Big Luther” in reference to his 6-foot-9 stature, has been backed by nearly $9 million of advertising from a McConnell-allied political action committee.

Trump implored the crowd to back Strange so that “we can defend your interests, fight for your values, and always put America first.”

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Moore, 70, is a religious conservative who twice lost his position as the state’s top judge. He was ousted in 2003 after refusing to comply with a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from the state Supreme Court building. He is also known for his opposition to gay rights.

He is popular with many of the same conservative voters who backed Trump last November.

“A lot of people love Trump and love Roy Moore,” said Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist who has worked for Strange in Alabama.

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Trump’s embrace of Strange has put him at odds with his former adviser Steve Bannon and the nationalistic wing of the party.

Breitbart, the conservative news site that Bannon oversees, has repeatedly attacked Strange as a Washington insider while praising Moore as an outsider in the mold of Trump when he was a presidential candidate.

(Reporting by James Oliphant; Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson and Susan Heavey; Editing by Caren Bohan, Toni Reinhold and Leslie Adler)

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Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

We need your support to keep producing quality journalism and deepen our investigative reporting. Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Invest with us in the future. Make a one-time contribution to Raw Story Investigates, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you.



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Dick Cheney raising money for Trump’s re-election — with White House staffers Ivanka and Jared: report

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Former Vice President Dick Cheney is raising money for President Donald Trump's re-election at a fundraiser in a ritzy western resort town.

"Former vice president Richard B. Cheney and his daughter, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), are to appear at a lunch fundraiser Monday in support of President Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign and the Republican National Committee, according to an invitation to the event," The Washington Post reported Saturday. "The luncheon fundraiser in Jackson, Wyo., will feature White House advisers Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, along with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as 'special guests,' according to the invitation, which was obtained by The Washington Post."

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‘He believes he’s a king and a dictator’: Ex-GOP congressman backs impeaching ‘unfit conman’ Trump

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President Donald Trump was blasted on MSNBC on Saturday by a former Republican congressman for being an "unfit conman."

Rev. Al Sharpton interviewed former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) about a recent New York Times op-ed he wrote calling for Trump to face a primary challenge from the right.

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2020 Election

Heather Heyer’s mom says things have gotten worse since Charlottesville — but she has a solution

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CNN's Ana Cabrera on Saturday interviewed Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer. Her daughter was murdered by a white nationalist terrorist during the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017.

"When you watch what’s happening in Portland, thankfully everything right now is peaceful, but does it sort of give you that knee-jerk reaction where your hackles kind of go up, just given everything your family has been through?" Cabrera asked.

"My hackles don’t really go down anymore," Bro replied. "I am constantly tracking these things around the country as they happen. Yeah, I think after two years ago, mine will never completely go down again."

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