Brooks came in second behind Katie Britt, a former top aide to retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, a victory of sorts that underscores Trump’s waning clout in the Republican Party. The two Republicans head to a runoff election next month after neither managed to crack 50% of the vote, according to unofficial results.
In ruby-red Alabama, whoever wins the Republican primary is all but guaranteed to take Shelby’s seat in November’s general election.
Trump turned on Brooks, a “Make American Great Again” loyalist, when he suddenly withdrew his endorsement in March. The former president said it was because “woke” Brooks had “changed” and was no longer committed to relitigating the 2020 election. Brooks said the real reason was that he told Trump he couldn’t overturn the election and remove President Joe Biden from the White House. The congressman had also been trailing in polls.
“He wanted the election rescinded and a do-over,” Brooks explained to reporters in March. “But there’s no legal way to do it.”
Trump’s rebuke kept Brooks in third place for much of the campaign, behind Britt and Mike Durant, the businessman and pilot who inspired “Black Hawk Down.” But the six-term House member, running as “MAGA Mo,” has still tried to make the case that he’s the most pro-Trump candidate in the race. Last week, Brooks’ campaign sent out mailers — chalked up to a simple mistake — still touting the former president’s endorsement, to which Trump responded: “Can’t do that Mo!”
Terry Lathan, former chair of the Alabama GOP and a Brooks ally, said there was nothing stopping Brooks from running as a MAGA candidate without Trump’s backing. She added that Trump was also wrong in his assessment of the ultra-conservative Brooks.
“He called Mo Brooks ‘woke’ and Mo is the least woke human being on planet Earth. I’m not real sure why that word, but that doesn’t seem to hit any mark whatsoever,” Lathan told HuffPost.
Brooks also ran with support from Sens. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Rand Paul (Ky.) and the Club for Growth, the conservative group that’s been feuding with Trump and spending to boost candidates who aren’t his picks in key GOP races.
Before their public falling-out, Brooks had energized the crowd at the rally that preceded the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and was the first House Republican who committed to rejecting the 2020 election results.
When Trump rescinded his endorsement, he blamed Brooks’ remarks at an August 2021 MAGA rally, when some people in the crowd booed him after he said it was time to “look forward” and leave the 2020 election in the rearview.
“There are some people who are despondent about the voter fraud and election theft in 2020,” Brooks said. “Folks, put that behind you, put that behind you.”
Trump’s 2022 endorsement record is middling with the primary season fully underway. While his pick in Ohio’s GOP Senate contest, J.D. Vance, easily won his race this month, his choice in Pennsylvania, Mehmet Oz, is ahead by a hair and facing a likely mandatory recount. His effort to unseat Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) is also a long shot, with Trump-backed former Sen. David Perdue trailing in polls.