WASHINGTON (AP) — Hard-right Republican Roy Moore is visiting Washington this week, meeting with fellow conservatives and at least one GOP lawmaker who tried unsuccessfully to defeat him in last month's Alabama Senate primary runoff election.
Not on the former state chief justice's itinerary are stop-ins with the Senate's two top GOP leaders. But there are signs the party establishment that he bitterly attacked during his campaign is warming to him, or at least making a pragmatic decision to back him in December's special election against underdog Democrat Doug Jones.
"He's a Republican. I'm going to help him with what I can, if he wants me to," Alabama GOP Sen. Richard Shelby said in an interview Thursday. Shelby backed defeated incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in the race and said he's not spoken to Moore since his victory.
Moore met late Wednesday with the head of the Senate GOP's campaign committee, Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo. That organization backed Strange in the September GOP runoff primary, as did President Donald Trump. After Moore's victory, Gardner said, "We support him in keeping this seat in Republican hands."
Until now, Moore has been best known for displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom and ordering judges to deny marriage licenses to gay couples. He was twice removed from his post as Alabama chief justice.
By late Thursday, Moore hadn't met with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., or No. 2 Senate GOP leader John Cornyn of Texas. He has spoken to both leaders by phone since winning the GOP Senate nomination, Republicans say.
A political committee aligned with McConnell spent heavily for Strange during the campaign, and Moore regularly savaged McConnell for being ineffective and promised to oust him from his post. Many Republicans view Moore as a major headache for party leaders.
"I told him I look forward to meeting him and supporting him in his election," Cornyn said Thursday about his conversation with Moore.
On Wednesday, Moore met with his state's GOP House members.
"He's very passionate about his issues," said Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Ala. "But I don't think he sets out to be disruptive" to GOP leaders. Aderholt said Moore told the group he'd recently spoken to McConnell by phone.
Moore has also used his trip to Washington to meet with Steve Bannon, Aderholt said, Trump's former White House strategist, who backed Moore in the primary. GOP lawmakers he's seen include GOP Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Utah's Mike Lee.
Moore also planned to meet with other GOP lawmakers and leading conservatives, including Jim DeMint, former head of the Heritage Foundation, and David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth.