The Republican Party has passed on the responsibility of Roy Moore’s candidacy onto Alabama voters.
The Republican, who has been accused of child sex abuse, is running against Democrat Doug Jones to fill Alabama’s Senate seat. The special election is scheduled for 12 December.
Ronna Romney McDaniel, the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, said Alabama voters will have to be the “judge and jury” on whether Mr Moore is elected. The former judge has vehemently denied all the allegations against him.
In an interview with John Catsimatidis on AM 970 in New York, Ms McDaniel said the claims against Mr Moore are concerning – but that Alabama officials have maintained he cannot be replaced on the ballot.
“The allegations were obviously very concerning, concerning to the degree that we [the RNC] pulled our resources,” McDaniel said.
“[But] Roy Moore cannot be replaced on the ballot,” she continued. “He is the candidate. The Alabama [Republican] Party has stood by that. Now the Alabama voters are going to have to be the judge and jury on this.”
Ms McDaniel’s comments came just days after RNC officials said they would continue to deny Mr Moore financial support from the national Republican Party.
Allegations against Mr Moore first surfaced earlier this month when four women told the Washington Post he had pursued them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. One of the women was just 14 at the time.
Multiple other women between the ages of 16 and 22 have since come forward and accused him of unwanted sexual contact.
Much of the alleged sexual misconduct is said to have occurred in the late 1970s, while one alleged instance of him groping a 28-year-old woman is said to have taken place in 1991.
Mr Moore has said he has “not been guilty of sexual misconduct with anyone”.
In the wake of the allegations, Republican leaders scrambled to find a way to block Mr Moore as a candidate. But they were unsuccessful.
The matter has been further complicated by Donald Trump’s apparent endorsement of the controversial candidate last week – a move that puts the President at odds with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has called for Mr Moore to withdraw from the Alabama Senate race.
On Tuesday, after weeks of silence regarding the claims against Mr Moore, the President finally weighed in on the issue: “I can tell you one thing for sure: we don’t need a liberal person in there, a Democrat – [Doug] Jones,” Mr Trump told reporters, referring to the Alabama Senate seat.
Then on Sunday, Mr Trump came out swinging for Mr Moore, tweeting that “Jones would be disaster!”
“The last thing we need in Alabama and the U.S. Senate is a Schumer/Pelosi puppet who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border, Bad for our Military and our great Vets, Bad for our 2nd Amendment, AND WANTS TO RAISES TAXES TO THE SKY,” he exclaimed.
Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer are the Democratic leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate, respectively.
Senator John Thune, the No 3 Republican in the Senate, has said he would like to see Mr Trump reverse his backing of Mr Moore.
“If Moore wins, there will immediately be an ethics investigation and he will be working under a cloud. He is a distraction,” Mr Thune told TV host Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday.
“I would like to see the President come out and do what we’ve done, saying Moore should step aside,” he said.
The South Dakota legislator suggested that while “ultimately the decision is up to the people of Alabama”, Mr Trump can use his power to get Mr Moore to pull out of the race.
“The president can speak for himself, as far as I’m concerned, the president can use his influence and do what he can to get Moore to step aside,” Mr Thune said.