President Donald Trump on Wednesday discouraged Alabama Republican Roy Moore from running for U.S. Senate in 2020, saying that Moore cannot win and the "consequences will be devastating" for his party and policies if Democrats retain the seat.
Moore lost in the once-reliably red state in a 2017 special election amid the sexual misconduct allegations , which he denied, and is considering a second run in 2020. Asked about the president's tweet, Moore said Wednesday that he blames establishment Republicans he contends are trying to keep him out of the race because they are scared he will win.
Trump, who backed Moore in 2017 despite the allegations, tweeted "I have NOTHING against Roy Moore," but warned that "Roy Moore cannot win."
"Republicans cannot allow themselves to again lose the Senate seat in the Great State of Alabama," Trump wrote, adding that if Democrats retain the seat in 2020, "many of the incredible gains that we have made during my Presidency may be lost."
Moore told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that, "everybody knows I can win and that's what worrying in Washington."
"I think the president is coming under pressure from people in Washington, scared that I will run for the Senate, scared I will win and know I can win," Moore said.
Moore said he has not made a decision about whether to enter the 2020 race, and that Trump's comments will not be a factor in his decision. He said he will announce a decision in June.
Democratic Sen. Doug Jones defeated Moore in 2017 by 22,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast in a special election to fill the seat previously held by Jeff Sessions, who became Trump's attorney general.
Republicans control the Senate 53-47 and view defeating Jones as a top priority. Jones, 65, is considered the most endangered Democratic incumbent facing re-election in 2020, a year when several GOP senators are vulnerable and control of the chamber will be at stake.
Moore's nomination could have national repercussions. Democrats could accuse the GOP of ignoring the #MeToo movement and coddling a man accused of sexual misconduct. Moore says he expects to announce a decision in mid-June.