MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — President Donald Trump on Wednesday discouraged Alabama Republican Roy Moore from running for U.S. Senate again in 2020, saying the GOP must regain the once reliably red state and Moore "cannot win."
Moore, who contends establishment Republicans are trying to keep him from running, disputed the assertion saying, "everybody knows I can win."
Moore lost the 2017 special election to Democrat Doug Jones amid sexual misconduct allegations. He is considering a second run in 2020.
"Republicans cannot allow themselves to again lose the Senate seat in the Great State of Alabama," Trump wrote in a Wednesday morning tweet.
Trump, who backed Moore in 2017 despite the allegations, tweeted "I have NOTHING against Roy Moore," but warned "Roy Moore cannot win."
Trump added that if Democrats retain the seat in 2020, "many of the incredible gains that we have made during my Presidency may be lost."
Moore told The Associated Press in a telephone interview that he has not made a decision about whether to enter the 2020 race, but Trump's comments will not influence him.
"I think the president is coming under pressure from people in Washington, scared that I will run for the Senate, scared I will win and know I can win," Moore, 72, said.
"Everybody knows I can win and that's what's worrying in Washington."
Moore said he will announce a decision in June.
Jones defeated Moore in 2017 by 22,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast in a special election to fill the seat previously held by Jeff Sessions, who became Trump's attorney general.
Republicans control the Senate 53-47 and view defeating Jones as a top priority. Jones, 65, is considered the most endangered Democratic incumbent facing re-election in 2020, a year when several GOP senators are vulnerable and control of the chamber will be at stake.
As he weighs a possible rematch with Jones, Moore contends the 2017 election was a "fraud" adding he has tried to "repudiate the false accusations that came against me."
Six women accused Moore of pursuing romantic or sexual relationships with them when they were teenagers as young as 14 and he was an assistant district attorney in his 30s. Two accused him of assault or molestation, accusations that he has vehemently denied.
A crowded GOP primary field is taking shape for the 2020 race in Alabama.
Congressman Bradley Byrne, former Auburn University football coach Tommy Tuberville and legislator Arnold Mooney have announced Republican primary bids.
Moore retains a strong following among some evangelical voters in the state. He was twice elected as the state's chief justice but was twice stripped of those duties. A judicial ethics panel said he defied, or urged defiance of, federal court orders regarding same-sex marriage and the public display of the Ten Commandments.