In the 36 hours since Alabama’s Republican Sen. Richard Shelby made his long-anticipated retirement announcement, speculation has been rampant over who would enter the GOP primary whose outcome is tantamount to succeeding him.
But there is also another question increasingly asked among Yellowhammer State Republicans: who — if anyone — will former President Donald Trump endorse in the sure-to-be crowded primary for the seat Shelby held for the last 36 years?
“President Trump’s endorsement is the gold standard among Alabama Republicans,” Perry O. Hooper, Jr., one of the state leaders of the “Trump Team,” told Newsmax. “Whoever he backs will win the nomination — easily.”
There is evidence to support Hooper’s claim. Last year, the then-president made it clear he was supporting former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville for the Senate nomination over former Sen. Jeff Sessions. Sessions had resigned to become Trump’s attorney general only to leave after infuriating the president by allowing Robert Mueller to be named special prosecutor on Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
Tuberville topped the initial primary and beat Sessions in the runoff by 3-to-2. He went on to be elected with ease in November.
There are at least three Republicans with Trump credentials now eyeing the Alabama Senate race: Rep. Mo Brooks, a leader of the challenge to the electoral vote count and charged by many Democrats with inciting violence at the Capitol Jan. 6; former U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia Lynda Blanchard, multi-millionaire and co-founder of the 100X Development Foundation to help the poor; and former Deputy Director of Intelligence Cliff Sims, who upset the president as a junior staffer for writing a book on the White House, was driven out of his job, but soon returned to Trump’s good graces.
Brooks said on Monday he would either run for the Senate or reelection to the House and credited what he called the “scurrilous and palpable false attacks on me by Socialist Democrats and their fake news media allies” for sending his name recognition and support “through the roof.”
Sims and Blanchard are reportedly exploring the race.
Shelby, 86, served eight years in the U.S. House as a Democrat before unseating Republican Sen. Jeremiah Denton in 1986 following a hard-fought and close contest. Having become a Republican in 1994, Shelby was quickly embraced by the leadership of his new political home and, in 2014, delivered one of the eulogies at the funeral of erstwhile opponent Denton.
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