Most senior Republicans in Alabama say they will vote for their party’s Senate candidate on Tuesday despite allegations that Roy Moore preyed on teenage girls.
President Donald Trump has endorsed Mr Moore, a former judge, and called on supporters to ensure the election of someone who supports his “Make America Great Again” agenda.
The result is perhaps the biggest test yet of Mr Trump’s culture war and whether voters are prepared to shrug off serious concerns about a candidate as “fake news”.
Senior party figures saying they are sticking with Mr Moore.
“I have stated both publicly and privately over the last month that unless these allegations were proven to be true I would continue to plan to vote for the Republican nominee, Judge Roy Moore,” John Merrill, Alabama secretary of state, said in a text message to The Associated Press. “I have already cast my absentee ballot and I voted for Judge Moore.”
Multiple women have accused Mr Moore of sexual misconduct. One alleges he initiated a sexual encounter with her she was 14 and he was 32.
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
The Democratic contender, Doug Jones, opened a four-point lead in one opinion poll last week but a running average maintained by Real Clear Politics suggest Mr Moore remains the narrow frontrunner.
Voters could choose to write in an alternative Republican name on their ballots – such as Lee Busby, a retired Marine colonel - or simply stay at home.
But a majority of Republican party leaders who responded to inquiries from The Associated Press said they were sticking with their candidate. Some cited the importance of keeping the seat in Republican hands – particularly when the party has a wafer-thin majority in the Senate.
“I want to reiterate again: I didn’t vote for Roy Moore, I wouldn’t vote for Roy Moore, I think the Republican Party can do better," Republican Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby says #CNNSOTUhttps://t.co/LZPCztusta
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) December 10, 2017
Many also face re-election next year and know that Mr Moore has an enthusiastic base of support within the party.
However, Richard Shelby, who holds the other Senate seat for the Republicans, said he had written in the name of another prominent party figure on his absentee ballot rather than vote for either Mr Moore or the Democratic candidate.
“We call it a tipping point. I think so many accusations... when it got to the 14-year-old story, that was enough for me,” he told CNN on Sunday.
The election is being held to replace Jeff Sessions, who became attorney general in Mr Trump’s administration earlier this year.