MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Former President Donald Trump on Wednesday rescinded his endorsement of Rep. Mo Brooks in Alabama's U.S. Senate race in a major blow to the Republican congressman's campaign.
In a statement, Trump cited Brooks' performance in the race and what Trump perceived as Brooks’ attempt to move Republicans beyond the former president's false 2020 election fraud claims. Trump said he will be making another endorsement announcement in the “near future.”
“Very sad but, since he decided to go in another direction, so have I, and I am hereby withdrawing my Endorsement of Mo Brooks for the Senate," Trump said in a statement. “I don’t think the great people of Alabama will disagree with me.”
Trump has been frustrated for months by Brooks’ performance as he has failed to gain traction in the race and has been trailing in the polls. By dropping the endorsement, the former president is trying to stave off the embarrassment of backing a losing candidate in a high-profile race. Trump, who often brags about his endorsement record, takes his tally seriously, seeing it as a reflection of his power in the Republican party as he mulls another presidential run.
It’s not the only race in which Trump’s pick has been struggling. The candidate he originally endorsed in Pennsylvania’s Senate race, Sean Parnell, dropped out amid allegations of abuse from his ex-wife. In North Carolina, his endorsed candidate for an open Senate seat, Rep. Ted Budd, has failed to make a splash. And in Georgia, his pick for governor, David Perdue, is trailing incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, one of his top 2022 targets.
Trump has since become more cautious and held back endorsements in several high-profile races, including contests in Ohio, Missouri, Arizona and Pennsylvania.
Trump had backed Brooks last April, more than a year before the upcoming May 24 primary, rewarding the conservative firebrand and ally who whipped up a crowd of Trump supporters at the Jan. 6, 2021, rally that preceded the Capitol insurrection.
Brooks has since found himself in a primary battle with two formidable opponents: Katie Britt, the former head of a state business group, and Mike Durant, a businessman best known as the helicopter pilot shot down and held prisoner in the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” incident.
The Alabama Senate race will decide who replaces retiring U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, a fellow Republican. Britt previously served as Shelby’s chief of staff.
At the “Stop the Steal” rally ahead of the storming of the Capitol building, Brooks had spoken in incendiary language, telling the crowd that, “Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.” But their relationship has deteriorated.
Trump, in his Wednesday statement, accused Brooks, one of the most conservative members of Congress, of having gone “woke” because of comments he made during an August rally with Trump in Alabama that briefly resulted in jeers from the crowd.
Brooks told the crowd it was time to move on from the 2020 presidential race and focus on upcoming elections. The remark resulted in some rallygoers briefly booing him.
“When I heard his statement, I said, ‘Mo, you just blew the Election, and there’s nothing you can do about it,’” Trump said Wednesday, repeating his election lies.
Numerous state and federal election officials, a succession of judges, Trump's own attorney general and an arm of his own administration’s Department of Homeland Security all said there was no evidence to support his claims of mass election fraud.
Trump had told the Washington Examiner last week that he was disappointed in Brooks’ performance and was mulling backing another candidate because, he claimed, Brooks had “changed.”
“It’s a very tight race between the three of them right now, and I’m not particularly happy,” he told the newspaper.
Brooks had tried to salvage the endorsement by taking a swipe at Trump rival Mitch McConnell, pledging not to back McConnell as Senate Republican leader if he wins the seat. Trump has fumed at McConnell and repeatedly called for his replacement since McConnell criticized the then-president’s conduct on Jan. 6.
Trump and his allies have continued to cling to the false claims that the voting was rigged in the 2020 election, claims that have been thoroughly debunked.
A Brooks campaign spokesman said Wednesday morning that the congressman was working on a statement about Trump’s endorsement withdrawal. The campaign last week blamed Britt for circulating “bogus” poll numbers after Trump’s remarks about Brooks being disappointing.
“Mo Brooks was the only one in this race to stand with him on January 6th,” Brooks campaign spokesman Will Hampson said in a statement last week.
Trump invited Britt and her husband, Wesley Britt, a former lineman for the New England Patriots, to visit with him at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate last month, according to a person who was familiar with the visit but not authorized to speak about it publicly. He also met with Durant this week, according to another person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to confirm the private meeting.
Britt and Durant each have a cash advantage over Brooks. Britt has raised nearly $5 million. Durant has loaned his campaign $4 million, while Brooks has reported $2.1 million in contributions.
Brooks has leaned heavily on his Trump connection throughout the race. His campaign signs refer to him as “MAGA Mo” in reference to the former president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. He appeared with a life-size poster of Trump at one recent campaign stop.
While Trump's endorsement withdrawal is a major loss to the Brooks campaign, the former president's backing hasn't always guaranteed success even in red state Alabama, where he has logged successive failures.
In 2017, Trump endorsed Luther Strange in the GOP primary for Jeff Sessions' former Senate seat, but he lost to Roy Moore. Trump then backed Moore, who was plagued by sexual misconduct allegations and lost to Democrat Doug Jones.
By KIM CHANDLER and JILL COLVIN Associated Press
Colvin reported from New York.
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