Politics

Why the RNC Has Been Slower than NRSC to Respond to Moore

The NRSC was quick to cut ties; it took the RNC four days longer

The RNC didn’t cut ties with Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, seen here during a visit to the Capitol last month, until five days after The Washington Post published allegations against him. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee are theoretically supposed to be working toward a shared goal of growing the party. 

But the committees’ differently timed responses to allegations against Alabama GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore illustrate just how much President Donald Trump has complicated traditional alliances within the Republican Party.

Senate leaders and their campaign committee abandoned Moore on Friday — one day after The Washington Post first published allegations against the former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice.

It took the Republican National Committee five days to make a similar move. Late Tuesday, the RNC severed fundraising ties with Moore and pulled its field staff. But it still hasn’t gone as far as Senate leadership in publicly condemning Moore. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday said he believed the women and called on the former judge to step aside. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, chairman of the NRSC, said Moore should be expelled from the Senate if he wins.

Watch: Who in Congress Is Pushing Roy Moore to Drop Senate Bid?

RNC Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel has been more measured.

“The recent allegations against Judge Moore are deeply troubling,” she said in a statement last week provided only to reporters who inquired. “He should step aside if there is any truth to them at all.”

Many senators have now moved away from those conditional clauses in their remarks, signaling they believe the women who have made allegations against Moore.

“Until about, oh yesterday, I was thinking well, you know this is really something that needs to be discussed and figured out down in Alabama,” Oklahoma Sen. James M. Inhofe said Wednesday. But more and more senators’ opinions are changing, he said.

“Looking at everything that’s come out, I’m now more convinced he doesn’t have any response to the accusations,” Inhofe said of Moore. 

No surprises

A week after the Post story broke, the RNC has largely been silent. A conference call scheduled to discuss the committee’s involvement in the race did not happen Tuesday, Politico reported

Trump was in Asia when the allegations first came out. Senators expected him to weigh in when he returned. Back in the United States, he made remarks Wednesday about his trip. He didn’t talk about Alabama. Since returning to the United States, he’s been tweeting about taxes, UCLA basketball players and “the failing” New York Times.

That the RNC hasn’t gone as far as McConnell or Gardner isn’t necessarily a surprise. There’s a division of labor between the NRSC and RNC, which serve different jurisdictions.

“They really can’t move until they get direction from the White House,” former RNC spokesman Doug Heye said of the national party.

“It’s a different balancing act from the NRSC and NRCC, who are essentially two people: the chair and leader,” a former Senate GOP leadership aide said.

Senators keep tabs on the NRSC but pay less attention to the RNC, which is beholden to its committee members in the states, as well as to the president.

“I don’t know the leadership of the RNC. I know what Cory Gardner and the NRSC did, and the timing was very quick,” Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran, a former NRSC chairman, said Wednesday.

“Historically, what I know about the politics of the RNC is it’s generally dominated by the president — if we have the president from our party. So my assumption is there is a strong relationship between the White House and the RNC,” Moran said. “But I don’t know that,” he added.

Even though they’re run separately, maintaining the GOP majority has traditionally been a common goal of the two committees.

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“It’s different in the sense of who is sitting in the White House right now, and how he’s approached different things, whether it’s Moore or incumbent senators,” the former GOP Senate leadership aide said.

Pro-Trump outside groups have attacked incumbents and even threatened them wth primary challenges. America First Policies, which has included former RNC officials among its senior staff, ran ads earlier this year attacking Nevada Sen. Dean Heller, the GOP’s most vulnerable member. It’s the NRSC’s job to protect Heller.

Even if McDaniel’s hands are tied by a White House with an unconventional political strategy, it doesn’t mean some Republicans wouldn’t have liked to have seen the RNC withdraw support from Moore sooner.

“We have a chairperson who appears to be particularly beholden to the president,” the former Senate GOP leadership aide said before the RNC cut ties. “This would be a great opportunity for her to step forward and say, ‘This is not who the Republican Party is.’”

Bridget Bowman contributed to this report. 

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