The Republican Party is no stranger to extreme candidates. It has lost eminently winnable Senate races by picking unelectable nominees like Todd Akin, Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdock and Christine O’Donnell in recent years. It voted for the leader of the birther movement and a proponent of banning all Muslim immigration as its 2016 presidential nominee — who won.
But even against that backdrop, Roy Moore is in a class all by himself.
It’s not just Moore’s extreme positions; it’s also the methods he’s been willing to employ and the religiosity that undergirds his political being. While other candidates have said controversial things, none was a true-believer on par with Moore. This is a candidate who:
• was removed from the state Supreme Court for refusing to obey binding rulings — twice — including most recently for refusing to obey the federal legalization of same-sex marriage.
• fomented the President Barack Obama birth conspiracy theory (which, unlike President Donald Trump, he still hasn’t renounced).
• suggested Obama is a secret Muslim in a video released by his foundation.
• said homosexuality should be illegal (but clarified that he doesn’t think gays should be killed).
• said as recently as this week that certain parts of the U.S. are under sharia law.
• called Islam a “false religion.”
• said Muslim Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., shouldn’t be allowed in Congress.
• suggested 9/11 was punishment for godlessness in the U.S., and said the same of shootings and killings.
• denied custody of three children to a woman in a lesbian relationship, calling her lifestyle “an inherent evil.”
Now, after defeating Luther Strange, who had President Donald Trump’s vocal backing, in the Republican Senate primary on Tuesday, Moore is most likely going to Washington. That prospect has stunned many people beyond Alabama, including some of the nation’s top Republicans.
Service in the Senate presents sweeping challenges, and the Capitol Hill establishment is not likely to roll out a welcome mat for Moore. He said throughout the campaign that he would be a gadfly, not an obedient follower of the party line laid down by Sen. Mitch McConnell, the majority leader, whose allies spent heavily in Alabama trying to help Strange keep his seat.
“McConnell and all of those people in Washington know I’m not to be controlled,” said Moore, whose campaign won the support of Stephen Bannon, Trump’s onetime chief strategist. “I’m not going to be managed, I’ve never been.”
Yet observers of the man whom many know simply as Judge Moore sometimes struggle for a neat, overarching description of his approach to public policy, beyond simple populism. In his years on the bench, he stayed at something of a remove from the pro-business orthodoxy of the Republicans who have won near-absolute power in Alabama in recent years, and for an array of reasons, business leaders have kept their distance from him.
“He is a populist,” said Jim Zeigler, a Republican who is the state auditor. “I don’t think he intends to be. He just is.”
The New York Times contributed to this report.