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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Trump backs down on Alabama Senate candidate endorsement

With his own political power fading, Trump also pulls out of another endorsement of a failing candidate.
Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Ark. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, File)

Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday rescinded his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks in Alabama’s U.S. Senate race in a major blow to the congressman’s campaign.

In a statement, Trump cited Brooks’ performance in the race, poor campaign staffing and what Trump perceived as a softening of Brooks’ stance on the former president’s false 2020 election fraud claims. Trump said he will be making another endorsement announcement in the “near future.”

“Very sad but, since he decided to go in another direction, so have I, and I am hereby withdrawing my Endorsement of Mo Brooks for the Senate,” Trump said in a statement. “I don’t think the great people of Alabama will disagree with me.”

Trump has backed Brooks since last April, more than a year ahead of the upcoming May 24 primary, rewarding the conservative firebrand and ally who whipped up a crowd of Trump supporters at the Jan. 6, 2021, rally that preceded the Capitol insurrection.

Brooks has since found himself in a primary battle with two formidable opponents: Katie Britt, the former head of a state business group, and Mike Durant, a businessman best known as the helicopter pilot shot down and held prisoner in the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident

The Alabama Senate race will decide who replaces retiring U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, a fellow Republican. Britt previously served as Shelby’s chief of staff.

Trump has been frustrated for months by Brooks’ performance as he has failed to gain traction in the race.

Dropping the endorsement marks an effort by Trump to stave off the embarrassment of backing a losing candidate in a high-profile race. Trump, who often brags about his endorsement record, takes his tally seriously, seeing it as a reflection of his power in the party as he mulls another presidential run.

But it’s not the only race in which Trump’s pick has been struggling. The candidate he originally endorsed in Pennsylvania’s Senate race, Sean Parnell, dropped out amid allegations of abuse from his ex-wife. In North Carolina, his endorsed candidate for an open Senate seat, Rep. Ted Budd, has failed to make a splash. And in Georgia, his pick for governor, David Perdue, is trailing incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, one of his top 2022 targets.

Trump has since become more cautious and held back endorsements in several high-profile races, including contests in Ohio, Missouri, Arizona and Pennsylvania.

In the Alabama contest, Trump invited Britt and her husband, Wesley Britt, a former lineman for the New England Patriots, to visit with him at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate last month, according to a source who was familiar with the visit but not authorized to speak about it publicly.

Brooks has leaned heavily on the Trump connection. His campaign signs refer to him as “MAGA Mo” in reference to the former president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. He appeared with a life-size poster of Trump at one recent campaign stop.

Trump in his Wednesday statement cited remarks Brooks had made during an August rally with Trump in Alabama that briefly resulted in jeers from the crowd. Brooks had told the crowd it was time to move on from the last presidential race and focus on upcoming elections. The remark resulted in some rally-goers briefly booing.

“When I heard his statement, I said, ‘Mo, you just blew the Election, and there’s nothing you can do about it.’” Trump said Wednesday.

Trump and his allies have continued to cling to the false claims that the voting was rigged in the 2020 election, claims that have been thoroughly debunked.

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