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Amid abuse scandal, Roy Moore left with ghost of a campaign

With a week to go until Election Day, the GOP senate candidate dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct with teenagers decades ago is running a ghost campaign.
Image: Roy Moore takes his seat after speaking during a news conference
Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Judge Roy Moore takes his seat after speaking during a news conference with supporters and faith leaders on Nov. 16, 2017 in Birmingham, Alabama. Moore refused to answer questions regarding sexual harassment allegations and pursuing relationships with underage women.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

FAIRHOPE, Ala. — With one week to go until the election, Roy Moore, the Republican Senate candidate dogged by accusations of sexual misconduct with teenagers decades ago, is running a ghost of a campaign.

Since winning the GOP nomination in September, Moore has put together an effort that has come to be defined by few staffers, little money, skimpy television ad buys, no volunteer apparatus, a nearly absentee candidate and no press interviews.

On Tuesday night, Moore will hold his first campaign rally in more than two months. It comes after the Republican National Committee on Monday recommitted to helping the Moore campaign after opting to exit the state three weeks ago.

Related: Doug Jones attacks: Moore belongs in prison, not the U.S. Senate

But in the 27 days since The Washington Post published the first allegations of sexual misconduct against Moore, he has appeared publicly just six times. At one point in November, Moore disappeared from the public eye for a 10-day span, except for one appearance on an online show hosted by a controversial former state legislator.

Moore has dismissed all proposals made by his Democratic opponent, Doug Jones, to engage in a debate and he hasn't given a single interview with a local or national news outlet since the initial allegations of sexual impropriety surfaced.

Instead, Moore has only given access to supportive media outlets. On Monday, he told American Family Radio that he has not and will not speak to reporters. “They wonder why I won’t talk to them. I won’t talk to them because I have no respect for them anymore,” he said.

Questions about Moore’s slim campaign schedule are compounded by the existence of a campaign staff in the single digits. It has no typical neighborhood canvassing or phone-bank operation for would-be volunteers. It has no storefront campaign office welcoming supporters. After this story was originally published, the Moore campaign responded to clarify their staffing levels, claiming to have 18 staffers in four offices as well as 1,000 volunteers. The campaign also says it has made over 200,000 voter contact calls and knocked on over 80,000 doors since the beginning of October.

Monday's decision by the RNC will be welcomed by the campaign, but it's unclear the extent to which the party will be able to relaunch its field operation in the state with just one week remaining.

Related: Trump officially endorses Roy Moore

This fall, Jones has outspent Moore on television and radio airwaves by a 10-to-1 margin — a result of the Jones campaign raising $10.2 million in funds in the last two months compared with Moore’s haul of $1.8 million.

One year ago, Donald Trump nearly doubled Hillary Clinton’s vote total in the presidential election in this state.

But Jones, a former U.S. district attorney from Birmingham, has run a hard-charging campaign over the last month. He has campaigned each of the last 11 days since Thanksgiving and taken questions from the assembled press at each stop, making multiple visits to college campuses, suburbs around the state's major metropolitan hubs and the predominately African-American city of Selma.

Jones also has a campaign operation attempting to mobilize voters ahead of the Dec. 12 election. NBC News has stopped at several campaign field offices, where staff and volunteers actively send out volunteers daily, to knock on doors and hand over bundles of yard signs.

For the most part, Moore’s campaign is operating with the knowledge that a Democrat has not won a major statewide race here since 2006, and says it is relying on “organic” grass-roots support established by Moore over his public career as a judge, particularly in churches across the state.

In his messaging, Moore has not ignored the allegations of sexual misconduct against him. Instead, along with his reciting of Bible verses and poems, he has focused most of his public remarks propagating the idea of a “conspiracy” constructed by the “other side” with an “agenda” to keep him from entering Congress.

In remarks to congregants of a Baptist church in Theodore last week, Moore asked, “When I say 'they,' who are 'they'?”

“They are liberals, they don't want conservative values," he said. "They're the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender who want to change our culture. They're socialists who want to change our way of life, putting man above God." And, he added, "they are the Washington establishment."

“They don’t want to hear about God,” Moore said at the church. “And they don’t want to hear about the Constitution of the United States and its foundational principles in God."

Over the last month, Moore has played the role of martyr, telling roomfuls about the emotional strain on his wife, his 91-year-old mother and children. “I feel my soul is being tried,” he said last week.

But Moore has defiantly refused to answer questions about the detailed accounts against him from multiple women. And despite threatening to sue The Washington Post and the Alabama Media Group over their reporting, the candidate never followed through. His campaign has carefully constructed backdoor exits in recent weeks to ensure members of the press are unable to get in close proximity to him.

Related: Moore accuser says she didn't deserve to be preyed upon

Moore's campaign has consistently rejected all overtures by NBC News to engage with the candidate — not only about the allegations but also about policy issues.

Moore has provided only broad proposals on issues like health care, education and the economy. And he has not addressed past suggestions that homosexual acts should be illegal and that a Muslim should not be able to serve in Congress.

Instead, Moore has run a campaign largely centered on his faith, abortion, transgender rights and homosexuality.

“I oppose transgender rights,” Moore said to applause in a community center in Henagar one week ago. “There’s no right to believe you are a person of the opposite sex or opposite gender.”

The reason for his focus on cultural issues is clear, as Jones’ support for abortion rights is frequently brought up by Republican voters as a primary reason to continue supporting Moore.

“There might be a little dust here on this dog,” said Steve Rousseau, a Republican in Huntsville, referring to Moore. “But the other dog is for killing thousands of babies. So I’ll vote Republican.”

John Mathieu, a Presbyterian pastor in Fort Payne, said he intends to vote for Moore despite his “frustration and consternation” over the candidate’s handling of the sexual misconduct accusations against him.

“Personally, I would say in all probability, yes, to be candid,” Mathieu stated about voting for Moore. “Even with the allegations.”

Moore also has a loyal base of support — those who insist they have no reason to question his integrity. A poll released by CBS News this weekend said that 71 percent of Alabama Republicans believed the allegations against Moore to be false.

“I think [the accusers] are out for money and that they’ve been pushed by the other people to say things that aren’t true,” said Martha Shiver of Montgomery. When asked to identify those conspirators, Shiver was hesitant, but, referring to the incumbent senator who lost the GOP nomination to Moore, she noted, “I think, really, Luther Strange is probably behind a lot of this.”

And now just one week out from Election Day, the biggest event on Moore’s political calendar is one he is not even scheduled to attend, nor is it even in Alabama. President Trump, who forcefully endorsed Moore in a series of tweets on Monday, will hold a rally in neighboring Pensacola, Florida, on Friday to aid a candidate seemingly resolute on getting his bare-bones campaign through next Tuesday.