Jeff Sessions gets the conservative establishment nod — but not the president’s

Second Amendment

In his quest to regain a Senate seat he once held, Jeff Sessions may have lost the endorsement he most coveted — the president’s — but he is racking up stamps of approval from many players in the conservative establishment.

On Friday, the National Rifle Association backed Mr. Sessions’ bid to return to the Senate, an uphill fight in which the former attorney general trailed one time Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville in the March 3 primary. The two are now heading into a March 31 Republican runoff.

The NRA’s backing came just two days after President Trump gave Mr. Tuberville his enthusiastic endorsement, driving a final stake through any pretension Mr. Trump and Mr. Sessions maintained a political alliance or friendship. In Mr. Trump’s eyes, Mr. Sessions committed an unforgivable betrayal when, shortly after he got the attorney general position, he recused himself from the investigation into fraudulent charges the Trump campaign colluded with Russia.

That led to the appointment of a special prosecutor who packed his office with supporters of Hillary Clinton and generally haunted the first three years of the Trump administration. No evidence of collusion was ever found.

Nevertheless, the Sessions campaign has crafted itself as Trump loyalists, all behind a conservative lawmaker who could advance the president’s agenda better than a political neophyte and Alabama carpetbagger like Mr. Tuberville.

“Powerful, well-funded national forces are bent on destroying our right to keep and bear arms,” Mr. Sessions said. “Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are working day and night to gut the Second Amendment. I have fought Schumer and Pelosi on this issue, and I have won, and I will do so again when I return to the Senate.

“Alabama cannot afford to send an untested, unproven, weak-kneed greenhorn to the Senate who will get run over by Schumer and Pelosi,” Mr. Sessions added.

Jason Ouimet, who heads the NRA’s Political Victory Fund, said endorsing Mr. Sessions was an easy choice.

“Based on your strong leadership on Second Amendment issues as a U.S. senator and U.S. attorney general, you have earned the highest attainable rating, an A+ from NRA-PVF,” Mr. Ouimet said in the announcement.

The winner of the Tuberville-Sessions runoff will face Democratic Sen. Doug Jones in November. Mr. Jones, who rode to office on a tide of out-of-state money in a 2017 special election to replace Mr. Sessions, is rated the most vulnerable senate incumbent by most political analysts.

The myriad endorsements Mr. Sessions has collected reflect how the conservative establishment trusts him after he spent decades in Washington as a rock-ribbed Republican.

Earlier this week, Mr. Sessions garnered support from the Eagle Forum PAC, which joined the endorsements from the Family Research Council PAC, the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, the Alabama Forestry Association and several conservative luminaries in the Yellowhammer state.

But the establishment’s muscle may be hard pressed to push Mr. Sessions over the hurdle of Mr. Trump’s endorsement of his opponent, and the fact the March 3 primary saw a plurality of voters prefer either Mr. Tuberville or Republican Rep. Bradley Byrne who finished third.

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