Steve Bannon has claimed his insurgent campaign to elect a controversial judge as an Alabama senator has been carried out to “praise and honour” Donald Trump, his former boss and someone who threw his support behind the other candidate.
In a pugilistic, nationalistic speech delivered at a farm barn 25 miles outside of Mobile on the eve of polling, Mr Trump’s former strategist said electing Roy Moore would send an unmistakable message to Washington Republicans and “the global elite”.
“They think you’re fools – they have no interest in what you think,” he declared, to huge cheers. “Tomorrow, you have a chance to show what you think of the elite who are running our country.”
Mr Bannon, who threw his support behind Mr Moore after being fired as Mr Trump’s chief strategist, sought to claim his campaign was not a challenge to Mr Trump, who has endorsed Mr Moore’s rival, Luther Strange.
Yet the man now back in charge of the conservative Breitbart News site, has admitted Mr Moore is his first attempt at electing a non-mainstream congress candidate. If successful, he has vowed to challenge many mainstream Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections.
“We did not come here to defy Donald Trump. We came here to praise and honour him,” Mr Bannon said.
“We believe in America first, and conservatism because we oppose progressives and everything they stand for.”
But many of those gathered in the early evening sunshine close to the Gulf Coast – some of them Mr Trump’s strongest supporters – expressed anger and bewilderment over his decision to support Mr Strange.
“I don’t know why he is supporting Strange. He has to go back to his own. He was elected to drain the swamp,” said Deane Suits, who had travelled from the town of Foley.
Another supporter of Mr Trump, Debbie Giles, said she she did not think Mr Strange would stand up for the issues important to her – primarily the freedom of religion. She said that Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell was close to being a socialist.
“I think Mr Trump was wrong this time,” she said. “He needs to pay attention to the people who elected him.”
Former Ukip leader Nigel Farage, asked to attend the rally just a few days ago by Mr Bannon, was introduced to the crowds as “Mr Brexit”. He received huge applause when he celebrated Mr Trump’s victory and talked up Mr Moore’s record.
He said he believed a vote for the 70-year-old judge, known for the installation of a granite statue of the Ten Commandments in his Montgomery courtroom, would help rejuvenate the movement that Mr Trump had given momentum to.
He said: “This point about getting Judge Roy Moore is to help the President, isn’t it? He will rejuvenate Trump, Brexit, and those wonderful things that happened in 2016.”
Mr Moore took to the stage in a white cowboy hat and a black leather vest. He talked of his long career as someone who had fought in religious issues.
“All of Washington is watching to see what Alabama does tomorrow,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Birmingham, Mr Strange campaigned with Vice President Mike Pence.
“Luther Strange is a real conservative. He’s a leader and a real friend to President Trump. I got to tell you, Big Luther has been making a big difference in Washington,” said Mr Pence, according to the Associated Press.
Mr Srange said: “Tomorrow, there’s a lot on the line. For the Vice President and the President and of the United States to come here on my behalf means more than I can possibly say.”