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Some Republicans Choose To Back Roy Moore's Opponent Doug Jones

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Here's another story about politics. And if politics did come up at your Thanksgiving table this year or you went out of your way to be sure they didn't, then you know political divisions are running very deeply these days, some might say to a tribal level. In that context, crossing party lines is seen as a remarkable act of courage, but this week, Tim Miller did just that. Miller is a Republican strategist, a former spokesperson for the former Florida governor and presidential candidate Jeb Bush. But he announced that he's supporting the Democrat Doug Jones in the Alabama Senate race over the Republican Roy Moore. Tim Miller wrote about his decision in a piece for crooked.com called "The Republican Case For Doug Jones." And Tim Miller is with us now. Thanks so much for talking to us.

TIM MILLER: Hey, happy to do it.

MARTIN: So for people who haven't followed this, Roy Moore has been accused of sexual misconduct with a number of underage girls. But he also, as you pointed out in a piece that you posted, he was twice removed from the judiciary for misconduct. And I do want to mention again that Roy Moore denies the allegations that he engaged in this misconduct. But as you watch this whole thing unfold, I wonder, you know, what was the line for you? Was there a particular moment when you said to yourself, it's not just that I can't support this guy, I've got to support the other guy?

MILLER: Well, look. I, like I think a lot of establishment mainstream Republicans, opposed Roy Moore from the start and opposed him in the primary. I supported Luther Strange, who lost to him in the runoff in that primary, because of his long history of outrageous conduct, as you mentioned, being removed from the judiciary but his anti-gay attitudes and said that he believes that homosexuality is a jailable offense.

What pushed me over the edge, to say - I don't not only need to support Doug Jones but I donated to his campaign - was when President Trump came out earlier this week and tried to basically whitewash Roy Moore's record and tried to provide him cover. And I felt like if the president was going to do that, it was important to speak out and say no, you know, this is not a close call. This is not a gray area. You know, this is a man who is unfit to be in the Senate, and we need to support his opponent.

MARTIN: What about those who argue - in fact, a conservative columnist Ramesh Ponnuru wrote for bloomberg.com saying that he agrees that this is not an attractive choice, but if the people who favor abortion restrictions who see themselves as pro-life feel that that is their primary issue and that is their primary concern, then they have to either vote for Roy Moore or write someone in. What about that?

MILLER: I, you know, I have a lot of respect for Ramesh. And I'm pro-life and totally disagree with Doug Jones's position that you should be able to have an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. That said, you know, you have to make choices in life. And right, now there are only two options for the United States Senate. I appreciate what Ramesh is saying. You could write somebody in, but there is not a credible write-in candidate. And frankly, three years from now, when the seat goes up again, there's going to be a pro-life Republican in the seat almost certainly.

And so that's why I'd say looking at these two options, despite, you know, my pro-life views, Doug Jones, while not my ideal candidate, is clearly better than somebody that has preyed on young women. And, you know, the last thing I'd add on that point is it's one vote right now. At least as it stands right now, there have not been any votes lately where one pro-choice candidate would have hinged the votes in the Senate. It would maybe be a more compelling argument if it was a governor's race or a presidential race, where it was a single person in charge.

MARTIN: What do you make of the fact, though, that so many people who presumably have been allies of yours in the past or presumably you are aligned with them on so many other issues in the past really do believe that it's better to have somebody like Roy Moore in the Senate, that that particular stance is just more important than any other position. And I'm just wondering how you - what do you - how do you understand that?

MILLER: So, yes, I think that the reality is that there are going to be some people for who the abortion issue is so strong for them that they cannot bring themselves to support Doug Jones. But I don't see how they could bring themselves to support Roy Moore because of all his other positions as well. And I think really, Michel, the overwhelming response among my colleagues, you know, Republican consultants and Republican staffers in Washington, is they quietly agree with me, that they, you know, feel pressured by the times. Many of them didn't like Donald Trump either. And then, you know, the voters went for Donald Trump, and so they've been chastened to not step out against what they think Republican-base voters want. And so they're going along to get along.

MARTIN: That's Tim Miller. He's a Republican strategist, a former spokesperson for Jeb Bush. We're talking about a piece that he wrote for crooked.com called "The Republican Case For Doug Jones." We reached him in Oakland, Calif. Mr. Miller, thanks so much for speaking with us. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

MILLER: Hey, thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your listeners as well. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.