There is already a crowded field of Republican U.S. Senate candidates in Alabama, eager to take on incumbent Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.), widely seen as Congress' most vulnerable Democrat. This week, however, the GOP field will reportedly get one very high-profile addition.
Former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions intends to announce this week his bid to reclaim his old U.S. Senate seat, two sources familiar with Sessions tell NBC News. [...]Sessions would enter the race with $2.5 million stowed away in his campaign war chest from previous fundraising.
Right off the bat, as NBC News' report on this makes clear, there are legitimate questions about Sessions' ability to mount a credible statewide campaign. Name recognition obviously won't be a problem, but the Republican primary is less than five months away, and it's been more than two decades since Sessions ran in a competitive race.
What's more, other leading candidates in the GOP race aren't prepared, at least not yet, to stand aside and clear the field for Sessions. This will, among other things, limit the former attorney general's access to state-based campaign aides and donors, who are already associated with Sessions' Republican rivals.
And then, of course, there's a guy by the name of Donald J. Trump -- who has some rather strong feelings about Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III,
As has been thoroughly documented, the Republican president expected Sessions to be a partisan loyalist in the attorney general's office, making Trump's legal troubles go away whenever the president snapped his fingers. Instead, Sessions recused himself from the investigation into the Russia scandal -- a move Trump saw as an unforgivable betrayal, since he believed it was Sessions' job to interfere with the process on the president's behalf.
His attacks against Sessions became increasingly brutal, and as the Alabaman readies a comeback, Trump has sent word that he would renew his offensive against Sessions if he launched a Senate campaign. The New York Times reported overnight that the president has said that he's "very much still opposed to Mr. Sessions and would make that clear if he had to."
And in theory, that may seem like a problem for Sessions. After all, Alabama is one of the nation's reddest states, which backed Trump by 28 points in 2016. If the president were to denounce Sessions, it stands to reason Republican voters in the state would take notice.
But what if the impact wouldn't be quite as strong as Trump would like to think? Let's not forget that when Sessions gave up his Senate seat to join the president's cabinet, there was a special election to fill the vacancy.
In the early fall of 2017, ahead of Alabama's Republican special election primary, Trump went all out for appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R). The president endorsed him, tweeted about him, encouraged the public to watch his Fox News appearances, dispatched Vice President Mike Pence to campaign for him, recorded a robocall for him, and even headlined a rally for him in Alabama.
Trump left no doubt: Luther Strange was the White House's guy. As regular readers may recall, it was therefore a little embarrassing for the president when Alabama Republicans ignored Trump's advice and backed Roy Moore.
Soon after, Trump embraced Roy Moore and pleaded with Alabama to elect him to the Senate. The state's voters ignored the president's advice again and backed Doug Jones.
My point isn't that Trump is unpopular in Alabama; there's ample evidence to the contrary. But if the president believes he can help dictate the outcome of Alabama's Republican primary, simply by making his preferences known, I'd remind Trump that he's already failed twice in this area, and it's hardly a stretch to think he could fail again.