In a fight that’s offering a clinic on how not to handle PR messaging, Senate candidate Roy Moore is openly clashing with the very colleagues he hopes to join if his campaign is successful. Bolstered by strong alliances in the Alabama GOP, Moore is standing strong against allegations of sexual misconduct that recently surfaced. On the opposite side of the conflict is the Republican National Committee, the Senate GOP Campaign Committee, and a Who’s Who of sitting GOP senators and representatives, all of whom have called for Moore to step out of the race. The leader of this de facto inner-party opposition is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has strongly called for Moore to step aside in time for another candidate to take his place.
Moore’s response has been defiant: “Dear Mitch McConnell. Bring. It. On.” This tweet set the stage for the next step in this surprisingly caustic confrontation. A Twitter spat followed between Moore’s group, his supporters, and members of the RNC and their supporters. Meanwhile, the number of accusers continues to climb. So far, the White House has been silent on the matter, content to let the process play out. Probably the best course. As long as the allegations are allegations, “credible” though some say they may be, President Trump, gains nothing by sticking his opinion into a volatile situation that is already doing a lot to split a GOP that has been fracturing since the 2016 campaign. The party needs unity heading into midterm elections, and the infighting helps no one except their political opponents.
That doesn’t mean members of Mr. Trump’s family are not speaking out about the issue. Ivanka Trump, the daughter who rose to prominence during the campaign and captivated at the RNC, said: “I’ve yet to see a valid explanation, and I have no reason to doubt the victims’ accounts… There’s a special place in hell for people who prey on children…”
Some critics, even those within the party, are trying to tie Mr. Trump’s silence over the allegations against Moore to the allegations made against Trump during the campaign. These efforts have further split the GOP base. Some are enraged at the comparison. Others feel it’s an obvious correlation.
The lesson here, from a PR perspective, is one in the nuance of messaging. While the GOP is strong and consistent in much of its messaging, the commentary here, especially in the nuance of what’s said and how it’s said, will go a long way toward mending or rending this growing breach. Right now, the tone and language are intentionally combative and accusatory, forcing the GOP faithful to pick a side and alienating those who opt not to. This is not a good trend, and it won’t help the party as it heads into the next election.