DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore says he isn't going anywhere. The Republican is vowing to stay in next month's special Senate election despite allegations of sexual misconduct with minors decades ago. One woman who spoke out says she was 14 years old when Moore touched her inappropriately. But as Moore fights the allegations, many national Republicans say they want him to drop out. Here's Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey on "Meet The Press" over the weekend.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")
PAT TOOMEY: I think the accusations have more credibility than the denial. I think it would be best if Roy would just step aside.
GREENE: Now, amidst all this, many Alabama voters are saying they still back Roy Moore. NPR's Scott Detrow is here to talk about all of this. Good morning, Scott.
SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Morning, David.
GREENE: So what did you hear from various Republicans over the course of the last few days?
DETROW: There was an immediate rush to distance themselves from Roy Moore, from Senate Majority Mitch McConnell - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on down. But a lot of the responses from Republicans are very qualified. There's lots of hedging. And let's listen to Marc Short, President Trump's legislative director, on "Meet The Press" this weekend. It's a long cut here, but it's worth listening to.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "MEET THE PRESS")
MARC SHORT: Now, Chuck, first let me say that I have a 9-year-old daughter, as you know, and I think that the notion of innocent, defenseless children being molested is one of the most painful thoughts a parent could have. And I think that there's a special place in hell for those who actually perpetrate these crimes. And I think Roy Moore has to do more explaining than he has done so far.
But I think we here in Washington have to be careful as well in this. Roy Moore is somebody who graduated from West Point. He served our country in Vietnam. He's been elected multiple times statewide in Alabama. The people in Alabama know Roy Moore better than we do here in D.C. And I think we have to be very cautious, as Senator Toomey said, of allegations that are 40 years old that arise a month before Election Day.
GREENE: Wow. This is the White House saying that he is - may have a special place in hell if he did this, but also he's a hero.
DETROW: But on the other hand...
DETROW: Right, yeah so...
GREENE: That's incredible.
DETROW: I think that says a lot right there. And many Republicans, again, they certainly don't want to be anywhere near a candidate who they already had major concerns with to begin with. But I think there's a hesitance to side with the national media and the Democratic Party in an Alabama Senate race.
GREENE: So the election is now - what? - less than a month away. Is it even possible for Moore to drop out?
DETROW: It's too late for him to be replaced by another candidate on the ballot. There had been some speculation that Alabama's governor could delay the special election. But over the weekend, she said she has no interest in doing that. There's another option out there and that's to run a write-in campaign - incumbent Luther Strange or another candidate. And that's an idea that Pat Toomey endorsed over the weekend, but a write-in is tough to do, though many Republicans have joked that Strange is easier to spell than Murkowski. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski won a write-in in 2010 after she lost her primary.
GREENE: That's not so funny because spelling is actually crucial when you're doing a write-in candidacy.
GREENE: So Moore is denying all of this, right?
DETROW: That's right. He's very defiant. He held a couple campaign events over the weekend saying The Washington Post story is false. He is threatening to sue The Washington Post, though he has not actually followed through on filing a lawsuit yet. And a lot of Moore supporters in Alabama are sticking with him. Many had a similar response to Moore, saying that this is all part of an effort to undermine his campaign.
GREENE: OK. So voters sticking with him, but do Democrats still think they have a chance in this race given all this?
DETROW: They're proceeding very cautiously. You know, there's a worry from Democrats that a sudden influx of surrogates and national dollars in ads could backfire and make it more of a national Republican-versus-Democrat referendum. You saw this with some of the special House elections last year, that when the race became nationalized, that just pushed otherwise possibly persuadable voters back into their default parties.
GREENE: NPR's Scott Detrow. Scott, thanks as always.
DETROW: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.