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Moore dodges the press as harassment scandal spirals

Roy Moore and his Democratic opponent are hunkering down in the final three weeks of Alabama’s blockbuster Senate campaign, eschewing big public events as they try to manage an election that has exploded beyond their control.

Republican nominee Moore, rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct, has scheduled no public events open to the media this week as his campaign hopes to avoid stirring further controversy before the Dec. 12 special election. Democrat Doug Jones wants to distract from Moore’s troubles as little as possible in the closing days of the red-state race, instead working behind the scenes to energize African-Americans and other key groups and unleashing a torrent of TV advertising reminding voters of the accusations against Moore.

The person steering the story of the race Monday was instead Leigh Corfman, who earlier told The Washington Post that Moore undressed her and touched her inappropriately when she was 14 and Moore was in his 30s. She made an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show, where she spoke about Moore and questioned how many more women might come forward to accuse him.

“The story’s kind of taken a life of its own. People are examining it from all sides and perspectives, regardless of what the campaigns are having to say about it from either side,” said Bradley Davidson, a former executive director of the Alabama Democratic Party.

Moore supporters have been holding campaign events to highlight his support among women. But they have been overshadowed: On Sunday, Alabama Media Group newspapers endorsed Jones over Moore, calling on state voters to “stand for decency” and “reject” the Republican in front-page editorials. The White House is also keeping its distance, with Kellyanne Conway, an adviser to President Donald Trump, telling Fox News on Monday that there are no plans for the president to campaign with Moore. (Conway did add, though, that “we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.”)

And Corfman put another face to the accusations against Moore on Monday with her televised interview, in which she described lasting effects of her alleged encounter with Moore.

“It took years for me to regain a sense of confidence in myself. And I felt guilty. You know, I felt like I was the one that was to blame, and it was decades before I was able to let that go,” Corfman said.

Meanwhile, Jones is also staying relatively quiet. The Democratic nominee held a low-profile event with Birmingham Mayor-elect Randall Woodfin over the weekend, as Jones tries to energize Alabama’s sizable African-American population to vote in the special election. Jones also tweeted a picture of an appearance with Democratic Rep. Terri Sewell on Sunday.

Jones has refrained from weighing in often about the Moore accusations since the first story broke, when his campaign issued a one-sentence statement calling on Moore to “answer these serious charges.” He has said he’s content to focus on the issues and allow others to question Moore. But the Democrat has also aired hundreds of TV ads per day in the past week featuring Republican voters saying they can’t back Moore and urging support for Jones, according to Advertising Analytics.

“You read the story and it just shakes you,” one woman says in the ad. “I’m another Republican for Doug Jones,” a second woman says.

Moore’s campaign has been defiant and focused on raising money online — since national Republican groups including the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Republican National Committee have abandoned him — and highlighting continued backing from some Alabama Republican groups. Moore’s campaign emailed supporters Sunday that “Republicans are rallying around the Judge,” highlighting a resolution of support from the Shoals Young Republicans, though the Young Republican Federation of Alabama pulled its support of Moore over the weekend.

Jones’ campaign has far outraised and outspent Moore, despite keeping national Democrats at arm’s length in an effort to avoid alienating conservative Alabama voters. Instead, thousands of anti-Moore online donations have flooded into Jones’ campaign, powering the TV campaign against Moore.

The Democrat is spending about 14 times more on TV advertising than Moore, according to Advertising Analytics. Jones’ advertising was focused on health care before women came forward accusing Moore of sexual misconduct, but the allegations have since formed the backbone of Jones’ campaign on TV, along with a message from Jones decrying both parties in Washington along nonpartisan lines. Moore is also on TV with an ad saying “the real people of Alabama” support him in the race, but his campaign has not had the money to air it at saturation levels like Jones’ ad.

There has been modest spending from outside groups backing Moore in recent days by groups that supported him in the Republican primary — but it has been eclipsed by a new outside group supporting Jones. That group, called Highway 31, has poured almost $150,000 into digital advertising in the past two weeks, while the pro-Moore Solution Fund PAC and Patriots for Economic Freedom have spent tens of thousands of dollars for Moore.

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