Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions failed to reclaim his old Senate seat on Tuesday, losing the Alabama Republican primary runoff to former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, who had the backing of President Trump.
The Associated Press called Tuberville the winner with 35 percent of precincts reporting. Tuberville was leading Sessions by a landslide 26 percentage point margin, 63 percent to 37 percent.
Trump endorsed Tuberville in March after the former college football coach advanced to a GOP primary runoff with Sessions. The runoff was initially scheduled to occur two weeks after the primary, but was postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“Tommy Tuberville (@TTuberville) is running for the U.S. Senate from the Great State of Alabama,” Trump said in a pair of tweets in March. “Tommy was a terrific head football coach at Auburn University. He is a REAL LEADER who will never let MAGA/KAG, or our Country, down! Tommy will protect your Second Amendment (which is under siege), is strong on Crime and the Border, and truly LOVES our Military and our Vets. He will be a great Senator for the people of Alabama. Coach Tommy Tuberville, a winner, has my Complete and Total Endorsement. I love Alabama!”
Throughout the Alabama Senate race, both primary and runoff, Trump publicly berating his former attorney general after Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation. In the weeks leading up to the runoff, Trump continued to call Sessions a “total disaster,” and urged Alabama voters to reject his candidacy.
“3 years ago, after Jeff Sessions recused himself, the Fraudulent Mueller Scam began. Alabama, do not trust Jeff Sessions. He let our Country down. That’s why I endorsed Coach Tommy Tuberville (@TTuberville), the true supporter of our #MAGA agenda!” Trump tweeted in May.
“Big Senate Race in Alabama on Tuesday. Vote for @TTuberville, he is a winner who will never let you down,” Trump tweeted on Saturday. “Jeff Sessions is a disaster who has let us all down. We don’t want him back in Washington!”
After AP called the race for Tuberville, Trump celebrated the victory, saying he will “be a great senator” for Alabama.
“Tommy Tuberville WON big against Jeff Sessions,” Trump tweeted Tuesday evening. “Will be a GREAT Senator for the incredible people of Alabama. Doug Jones is a terrible Senator who is just a Super Liberal puppet for Schumer & Pelosi. Represents Alabama poorly. On to November 3rd.”
In another tweet, Trump called it a “GREAT WIN.”
Sessions congratulated Tuberville in his concession speech and urged Alabamians to “stand behind” the former Auburn University football coach to help him defeat Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).
“He ran a really firm, solid race. He was focused on his goal, and on winning, he had a plan to do so,” Sessions said of Tuberville. “He is our Republican nominee, and we must stand behind him in November.”
He also defended his decision to recuse himself from the Justice Department’s Russia investigation, saying he saved “the president’s bacon”
“Let me say this about the president and our relationship: I leave with no regrets,” Session said. “I was honored to serve the people of Alabama and I was extraordinarily proud of the accomplishments we had as attorney general. I did the right thing and I saved the president’s bacon in the process. Any other action to try to squelch an investigation in that environment would not have worked. It would have really been a catastrophe and I’m so glad it finally ended after a prolonged time and the president has been cleared.”
Sessions added, “I leave elected office with my integrity intact. I feel good about it. I hold my head high. I took the road less traveled, didn’t try to excuse myself, or get in a fight or undermine the leader of our country and the great work he has to do.”
Tuberville will now face off against Jones in November, who is considered to be one of the most vulnerable Democratic Senators facing reelection this year. Cook Political Report rates the Alabama Senate seat as “Lean Republican.”