The U.S. Senate's top Republican says the party still hopes to retain the Alabama Senate seat at the centre of a scandal involving Republican candidate Roy Moore.
Majority leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday: "We would hope to save the seat and that might require a write-in" campaign. McConnell says he expects to discuss the issue with President Donald Trump once the president returns to Washington.
The national party has turned against Moore, a Christian conservative accused of molesting teenage girls during the late 1970s when he was in his 30s. Trump has remained quiet while on an extended trip to Asia.
McConnell says with the Dec. 12 election three weeks away, "it's a very complicated matter" to try to retain the seat. Moore can't be knocked off the ballot under Alabama law.
McConnell said President Donald Trump called him on Friday and the two discussed Moore and he spoke to Vice President Mike Pence on Monday. McConnell says he also spoke to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly about Moore
"There is no question that there is a deep concern here. Roy Moore should step aside. The women who have come forward are entirely credible," McConnell told reporters. "He's obviously not fit to be in the United States Senate and we've looked at all the options to try to prevent that from happening."
Republicans call on Moore to quit
House Speaker Paul Ryan also says Moore "should step aside" and that the allegations against Moore "are credible."
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Ryan joined the growing chorus of Washington Republicans calling on Moore to quit the race after two women stepped forward describing how Moore groped them when they teenagers decades ago. Moore has called the reports false.
Moore's Democratic Party opponent Doug Jones says he's tired of people blaming his campaign for reports of sexual misconduct by Moore.
Jones addressed the scandal Tuesday after a campaign stop in Birmingham. Asked whether his campaign was in touch with Moore's alleged victims, Jones said: "I'm tired of people blaming this campaign."
He says he has not heard from the women who claim misconduct and has "not reached out to them." He said anything suggesting otherwise is "absolutely absurd and consistent with a pattern of absurd comments coming from both Roy Moore and his campaign."
Jones largely downplayed the allegations of misconduct against Moore during a brief press conference.
He said he'd continue to focus on issues important to Alabama voters and "let that play out over there."
Jeff Sessions, who resigned from that Alabama senate seat to become Trump's Attorney General, says he has "no reason to doubt" the women who have accused Moore.
Sessions made the comment under questioning Tuesday by Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, but he declined to say whether he thinks Moore should drop out of the race.
Jeff Sessions 'fits the mold' for a write-in candidate
McConnell said later in the day that Sessions would be a plausible write-in candidate. "He fits the mold of somebody who might be able to pull off a write-in," the majority leader said during a forum on the economy.
Moore has suggested that McConnell and other establishment Republicans were working in tandem with news media to discredit him.
After McConnell's remarks, Moore responded by tweeting: "The good people of Alabama, not the Washington elite who wallow in the swamp, will decide this election!"
Moore denied the newest allegations and said he doesn't know his accuser.
But in New York, a tearful Beverly Young Nelson detailed an attack she says occurred when she was 16 years old and he locked her in a car.
Last week, The Washington Post reported other alleged incidents decades ago.