Voters in Alabama who pick up the phone on Tuesday might hear the voice of President Donald Trump, his predecessor Barack Obama or former Vice President Joe Biden advocating for one of the candidates in the state’s U.S. Senate special election.
But they won’t hear from the current vice president, Mike Pence, who in a rare break with his boss has gone silent on a race that could narrow Republican control of the Senate. The election pits Republican Roy Moore, who has been accused by several women of sexual misconduct while they were teenagers, against Democrat Doug Jones.
Pence hasn’t commented publicly about the race since Nov. 9, when a spokeswoman called the allegations against Moore “disturbing.” His absence stands out after Trump and the Republican National Committee reversed their abandonment of Moore and moved last week to fully support him despite the allegations. In contrast with his thrice-married boss, who’s faced his own allegations of misconduct with women, Pence is an evangelical conservative whose political career is marked by strong stands on moral issues such as abortion.
“With the most controversial candidate running for the Senate in recent memory, you have the president getting engaged and you have the vice president really sort of disappearing,” said Joel Goldstein, who teaches law at St. Louis University and has written books on the vice presidency. “This could be a political judgment that silence is the best course.”
Spokesmen for Pence and Trump did not respond to requests for comment.
Some Republicans who regard Moore’s candidacy as an existential threat to the party say that the vice president is wrong to sit out the race.
“Pence’s silence is being complicit,” said Rick Tyler, a GOP strategist and former spokesman for Senator Ted Cruz’s presidential campaign. “He’s trying to sit it out. I don’t know where he stands. He’s not providing any leadership.”