President Trump said last week that he will not campaign against Jeff Sessions, who has entered the race for the Senate nomination in Alabama. Trump has never gotten over the fact that, as Attorney General, Sessions recused himself from the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election (the correct decision by Sessions, in my opinion). However, he has apparently decided not to work publicly to defeat Sessions’s Senate comeback bid.
It’s a wise decision. If Sessions loses in the primary, Trump can still say, accurately, that the loss was due to Sessions’s falling out with Trump. If Sessions wins, Trump can point out that the former attorney general emphasized his loyalty to Trump in his very first campaign ad. In this scenario, Trump also avoids the embarrassment of having tried unsuccessfully to undermine the winner.
Furthermore, Trump surely wants the Republicans to win back this Senate seat. Doing so would mean an extra vote for the Trump agenda if the president wins reelection.
With this objective in mind, coming down hard against Sessions makes little sense. If Sessions wins the nomination, opposition by Trump in the primary might cause some of his supporters not to vote for the former Senator in the general election, thereby benefiting the Democratic incumbent.
Trump, then, has made the right call in saying he won’t campaign against Sessions. But will he stick to this course or will the temptation to snipe at Sessions (or worse) overwhelm him at some point?
Trump seemed to leave this possibility open. After declaring that he won’t campaign against Sessions, he added:
I’ll see how it all goes. We’ll see what happens. He’s got tough competition.
It’s Trump prerogative to change his mind. However, it will be better for all Republicans concerned if he doesn’t.