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Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore remains defiant. He's fighting a push from national Republicans to step aside amid allegations of sexual misconduct from decades ago, including women who say he assaulted them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s. Moore calls the accusations scurrilous and false and a political attack. Now the question is whether the state's GOP voters will still support him, in particular Republican women. NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: On the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery today, a couple dozen women gathered to rally for embattled Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.
ELLIOTT: The star speaker was his wife of 32 years, Kayla Moore. She promised he'll keep fighting.
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KAYLA MOORE: So let me set the record straight. Even after all the attacks against me, against my family and now against my husband, he will not step down. That's right.
ELLIOTT: Moore is known as a fighter. He was twice removed as Alabama chief justice for defying federal courts. Since the allegations, a Fox News poll shows Moore's Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, is in the lead and that he has a considerable advantage with women. That means Moore has to work now to keep faithful Republican women in his camp. Party loyalty seems to be driving some of that.
LINDA LEWIS: As long as he is the Republican candidate, I will support him.
ELLIOTT: Linda Lewis is president of the Capital City Republican Women's club in Montgomery. She says Moore has been in Alabama politics for decades and has always been, quote, "above reproach."
LEWIS: Certainly as Republican women, we do not condone sexual misconduct in any way. We've never heard him be accused of anything like this before. He is innocent until he's proven guilty, and we as Republican women are going to stand behind him and support him on December the 12.
ELLIOTT: But party unity is fraying. Hours after the state GOP steering committee said it would continue to back Roy Moore, the Greater Birmingham Young Republicans approved a resolution condemning Moore and revoking support for his nomination. It says they believe in innocence until proven guilty but not electability until proven guilty.
Many women are reluctant to talk publicly about the race and how they'll be voting. Some say privately they'll sit this one out. No one's likely to come out of this unscathed, says retired lobbyist Sandra Sims-deGraffenried
SANDRA SIMS-DEGRAFFENRIED: I'm afraid it's dividing our state.
ELLIOTT: Sims-deGraffenried is active in Republican politics at both the county and state level. For that reason, she says she supports the Republican ticket but not with ease.
SIMS-DEGRAFFENRIED: It's tough for me, for everybody in this state. I think it's going to be a hard decision for all of us.
ELLIOTT: She says voters are faced with reconciling what they thought they knew about Roy Moore and his political record with these new disturbing allegations.
SIMS-DEGRAFFENRIED: I can't. I can't reconcile it. I don't know which to believe. The women sound very credible. I think Roy is a man of integrity. I don't know. I don't know wherein the truth lies. And I think that's where we all are.
ELLIOTT: Sims-deGraffenried says she doesn't see how this can end well for the state. The more we stir it, she says, the more it stinks. Debbie Elliott, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF JINSANG'S "LEARNING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.