STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
This is another week when Republicans would rather be promoting tax reform. Instead they are focused on their party's candidate for United States Senate from Alabama, Roy Moore.
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
And here's a warning that some people will find this story disturbing. Five women now say Moore pursued them when they were teenagers and he was a district attorney in his 30s. One was 14, below Alabama's legal age of consent.
INSKEEP: The latest accuser says that she had just turned 16 and was working as a waitress when Moore lured her into his car and assaulted her.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BEVERLY YOUNG NELSON: Mr. Moore reached over and began groping me and putting his hands on my breasts. I tried to open my car door to leave, but he reached over and he locked it so I could not get out.
INSKEEP: Roy Moore has denied all of the allegations by all of the women. And we're going to discuss the politics of this with Tamara Keith, who hosts NPR's Politics Podcast, and is on the line once again. Hi, Tam.
TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: OK. So how have Republican's statements evolved on Roy Moore?
KEITH: There's been a real shift in the last 24 hours, from a lot of sort of qualified, if true, he should step aside, to a chorus of full-on calls for Moore to get out of the race, including from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who yesterday - and he said this thing that we're about to hear before the fifth woman came out.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
MITCH MCCONNELL: I believe the women, yes.
KEITH: And then there was this very dramatic press conference which just took this a different step further. You know, you have someone on video talking about what she describes as assault.
INSKEEP: And you do have a situation where, I mean, it's the United States. You'd like someone to be innocent until proven guilty, but as Mitt Romney said the other day, the standard for judging somebody in election is different than judging somebody in a criminal trial. And Republicans are reaching a judgment, I guess, but what can they actually do?
KEITH: Well, they don't have a lot of great options, and they are worried about this in part because even though there is no trial, there is nothing criminal that has happened, that has been, you know...
INSKEEP: Nothing criminal that's been proven, I guess we should say.
KEITH: That's been proven, we should say, right. Even though they are at risk of having someone in the Senate who would be a major problem for them as they try to get other Republican senators re-elected. So there are a few things that are being considered. Mitch McConnell said that he was looking at whether a write-in campaign is a viable option, to have some other Republican throw their name in to try to take votes away from Roy Moore in Alabama. That seems like sort of unlikely and a long shot. And there is another idea, which would be expelling him if he is elected. That's something that Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado has talked about, and Jeff Flake of Arizona has also said that he would agree with that idea. But that's sort of unprecedented, too.
INSKEEP: Tamara, can I just ask? George F. Will had a revolutionary idea, writing the other day about Roy Moore, saying that maybe it would just be better if the Democrat won. This is a longtime conservative, longtime Republican saying maybe just really the Democrat ought to win this time. Is that a viable option for Republicans?
KEITH: Well, it's actually possible that the Democrat could win. There are some polls that show Doug Jones ahead at this point, but Republicans remain deeply concerned. And I should say Washington Republicans remain deeply concerned that Roy Moore could win and that that could be a problem for them. Meanwhile, Roy Moore has no desire to get out and really doesn't care what Mitch McConnell says. He's been running against Mitch McConnell the whole time.
INSKEEP: You've told us that expelling someone from the Senate, which some Republicans are now talking about if you were to win is very hard. It takes a two-thirds majority. But then there's the question what if a Democrat did win? What do Senate Republicans face then?
KEITH: Well, then they face an even more narrow majority. This is a special election, and they currently have a 52 vote majority, which has not been enough to do things like repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is something they wanted to do. If they're down to 51, that's an even narrower margin of error.
INSKEEP: NPR's Tamara Keith. Thanks very much.
KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.