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Trump at campaign rally says US 'cannot afford' Roy Moore loss in Alabama

FILE: Image shows a campaign rally attended by President Donald Trump in Pensacola, Florida on Friday, December 8, 2017. Trump is campaigning for Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. (CNN Newsource)

WASHINGTON (AP) —PENSACOLA, Florida (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday urged voters to elect a Republican Senate candidate in Alabama who has been dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct, warning that America "cannot afford" to have a Democrat win the hard-fought campaign instead.

Trump gave a boost to the campaign of GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore during a raucous campaign rally in the Florida panhandle, near the state line with Alabama.

"We cannot afford, the future of this country cannot afford to lose the seat," Trump said, referring to his party's razor-thin 52-48 advantage in that chamber of Congress.

Trump said Moore's opponent, Doug Jones, is a "liberal Democrat" who would be "completely controlled" by Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi in the House and Chuck Schumer in the Senate.

"He's their total puppet and everybody knows it," Trump said during a wide-ranging speech that included riffs on the U.S. immigration system and the nation's economic performance since he took office. He touched briefly on the closely watched Senate race that will be decided when voters in next-door Alabama go to the polls Tuesday.

"We need somebody in that Senate seat who will vote for our Make America Great Again agenda, which involves tough on crime, strong on borders, strong on immigration," Trump continued.

Trump also taunted Beverly Nelson, one of Moore's accusers, who had presented a yearbook inscription by Moore as a key piece of evidence that the candidate knew his accuser. Nelson said Friday she had added a notation marking the date and place where it was signed.

"Did you see what happened today? You know, the yearbook? Did you see that? There was a little mistake made," Trump said, shifting to a sing-songy voice. "She started writing things in the yearbook."

Trump then mentioned Nelson's lawyer, Gloria Allred, and said, "Anytime you see her, you know something's gone wrong."

President Trump on Friday reinforced his support for embattled Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, telling voters four days before they go to the polls that the "LAST thing" he needs in the closely divided GOP-controlled Senate is a "Liberal Democrat" who opposes his agenda.

Trump tweeted that message hours before he was to hold a rally Friday night in Pensacola, Florida.

The White House has said the rally is a campaign event for Trump. But the location, near the Alabama border and feeding television markets in the state, stoked speculation that the rally was a backdoor way for the president to give Moore's campaign a boost without actually setting foot in the state. White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders had said there was no room on Trump's schedule for him to visit Alabama before Tuesday's election.

"LAST thing the Make America Great Again Agenda needs is a Liberal Democrat in Senate where we have so little margin for victory already," Trump said Friday on Twitter, referring to the 52-48 GOP edge in the Senate. He criticized Democrat Doug Jones, Moore's opponent, as being "bad" on a number of issues.

"The Pelosi/Schumer Puppet Jones would vote against us 100% of the time. He's bad on Crime, Life, Border, Vets, Guns & Military. VOTE ROY MOORE!" Trump said.

Moore, who is 70, has been dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct involving teenage girls when he was in his 30s.

Moore tweeted in response that he agreed with Trump.

"You're right Mr. President! We can't Make America Great Again with another radical liberal in the US Senate," he said. "I look forward to working with you to pass the America First Agenda!"

Trump, who overcame allegations of sexual misconduct to win last year's presidential election, looked past the charges against Moore and endorsed the former Alabama judge this week. Top Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, had called on Moore to step aside after the allegations were made public.

Friday's campaign rally will be Trump's first since September, when he went to Alabama to campaign for Sen. Luther Strange.

Strange lost the GOP runoff election to Moore.

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Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

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