While all were focused on North Korea, President Trump broke off for a moment to launch something of a political pre-emptive strike in Alabama's special Senate election. It shocked and awed everyone, including incumbent Sen. Luther Strange.
Senator Luther Strange has done a great job representing the people of the Great State of Alabama. He has my complete and total endorsement!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 9, 2017
That campaign motorcade was speeding between events when Trump called. "They were on the phone," a Strange aide told the Washington Examiner, "They spoke for 15-20 minutes. The president said he was going to endorse him and wanted to know how he could help."
The subsequent endorsement was significant because it simultaneously boosted a lagging Strange while taking some wind out of Rep. Mo Brooks' campaign. The two have been trailing behind former Alabama Supreme Court Judge Roy Moore ahead of the Aug. 15 primary. The winner of second place will advance to a September run off.
Presidents endorse incumbent senators all the time, so why was this a big deal? Here are four takeaways from the call.
First, loyalty trumps all and transcends everything. "The President is aware of the unkind things Brooks has said about him," the aide said, referring to the conservative representative's criticism of Trump during the 2015 GOP primary when Brooks was working to get Texas Sen. Ted Cruz elected.
Second, Trump will play a role in the campaign. "Tweet is first step," the aide said. "More to come."
Third, Trump doesn't hold Mitch McConnell's allies responsible for what he considers the majority leader's failures. Senate Leadership Fund, Sen. Mitch McConnell's super PAC, has been running interference against Brooks for Strange from the beginning, dropping more than $4 million in advertising. And while Trump doesn't like McConnell much these days, that hasn't kept him from coming to the rescue of one his allies.
Fourth, Strange has reason to be worried. A recent poll showed Brooks closing the gap in the final stretch. While the endorsement provides a boost it also reeks of desperation, specifically a last-minute attempt to ensure Strange finishes second and makes the run-off.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.