WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Embattled Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore led his Democratic opponent by six percentage points in a CBS News poll released on Sunday, with most Alabama Republicans saying the allegations of sexual misconduct against him are false.
Moore was leading Democrat Doug Jones 49 to 43 percent among voters likely to cast ballots in the Dec. 12 special election, CBS said. The contest was even among registered voters, it said.
Republican lawmakers in Washington, including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, have distanced themselves from Moore and called for him to step down from the race after he was accused by several women of sexual assault and misconduct when they were teenagers and he was in his early 30s. Reuters has not been able to independently verify the allegations.
But McConnell said on Sunday that if Moore is elected, the Senate will swear him in and then the Senate ethics committee would decide whether to investigate the allegations.
“We’ll swear in whoever’s elected and see where we are at that point,” McConnell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
“We can’t stop him from being seated,” said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who was also interviewed on CBS. “If there was an (ethics) investigation and all six members of the committee said they believe he was a child molester, that would be a problem.”
According to the CBS poll, 71 percent of Alabama Republicans say the allegations against Moore are false, and believe that Democrats and the media are behind the accusations.
Another poll a day earlier had Jones barely ahead. The Washington Post-Schar School poll said Jones’ support among likely voters stood at 50 percent, versus Moore’s 47 percent.
President Donald Trump originally backed Moore’s opponent in the Republican primary, Senator Luther Strange. But Trump has since defended Moore, noting Moore has denied allegations of sexual misconduct. The president says he does not want Moore’s Democratic opponent to win.
Trump is slated to travel to a rally in Pensacola, Florida on Friday — a city just across the state line from Alabama — just days ahead of the Alabama election. The timing and location gives Trump an opportunity to express support for Moore.
Republicans hold a slim 52-48 majority in the Senate and are eager to maintain their advantage to advance Trump’s legislative agenda on taxes, healthcare and other priorities.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Sandra Maler)