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Robocalls, bogus news as Alabama Senate race hits final day

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Alabama's U.S. Senate campaign entered its last day Monday with the candidates making final appeals for votes and a war of robocalls between President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama. There was a flurry of bogus news as well.

Trump recorded a call touting Republican Roy Moore, accused by several women of sexual misconduct, and saying Republicans needed his vote in the Senate. Obama and former Vice President Joe Biden are supporting Democrat Doug Jones, seeking to break the GOP's lock on statewide office in Alabama.

With polls opening Tuesday, a flurry of bogus news stories has appeared on social media spreading misinformation about the race. One website falsely proclaimed that one of the women who have accused Moore of sexual misconduct had recanted. On the other side, Moore's detractors took to social media to falsely claim that Moore had written in a 2011 textbook that women shouldn't hold elected office.

Around 200 stories flagged as false or misleading relating to the race surfaced on Facebook by the weekend, according to a count by The Associated Press, one of several fact-checking organizations working with Facebook to deter the spread of false content on the platform.

In a morning stop at a diner in Birmingham, Jones accused Moore of disappearing during the campaign's closing days and claimed the Republican wasn't even in Alabama over the weekend.

"We're making sure our message is getting across while Roy Moore hides behind whoever he's hiding behind," said Jones.

Moore has made only a few public appearances since women came forward to accuse him of sexual misconduct years ago — including one who said he molested her when she was 14. He was in Montgomery for a Christmas party on Sunday evening, but his campaign hasn't responded to questions about his whereabouts the rest of the weekend.

Moore was set to appear Monday night at a rally in rural southeast Alabama with former Trump chief strategist Steve Bannon, making his third trip to the state to support Moore.

Alabama Democrats see the special Senate election as a chance to renounce a history littered with politicians whose race-baiting, bombast and other baggage have long soiled the state's reputation beyond its borders.

Many Republicans see the vote as chance to ratify their conservative values and protect Trump's agenda ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.

Moore, a former judge twice removed as state chief justice for violating judicial ethics, has spent two decades advocating conservative Christian positions. Jones is a former federal prosecutor best known for prosecuting two Ku Klux Klansmen responsible for killing four black girls in a 1963 church bombing.

The winner will take the seat held previously by Trump's attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Republicans control the Senate with 52 seats.

The matchup mixes both Alabama's tortured history and the nation's current divisive, bitterly partisan politics, and it has made a spectacle of a Deep South state well acquainted with national scrutiny but not accustomed to competitive general elections.

"This is an election to tell the whole world what we stand for," Jones told supporters at one stop Sunday, adding that his campaign "is on the right side of history." At an earlier appearance, he declared Alabama is "at a crossroads" and that Moore, an unapologetic evangelical populist, tries only to "create conflict and division."

Jones, 63, stops short of explicitly comparing Moore to the four-term Gov. George Wallace, whose populism was rooted in segregation. But Jones alluded Sunday to that era of Alabama politics.

"Elect a responsible man to a responsible office," Jones said, repeating the campaign slogan of another Alabama governor, Albert Brewer, who nearly defeated Wallace in 1970 in a contest Alabama liberals and many moderates still lament as a lost opportunity.

Some of Jones' supporters put it even more bluntly. "I thought Alabama's image was pretty much at the bottom," said Pat Lawrence, a retired software engineer in Huntsville. A Moore win, Lawrence added, "will be a whole new bottom."

Those concerns extend even to some GOP quarters. Alabama's senior senator, Richard Shelby, confirmed Sunday that he did not vote for Moore, saying he wrote in another "distinguished" party figure he declined to name.

Yet for many Republicans, Moore is a paragon of traditional values. They reject accusations that he molested two teenage girls and pursued relationships with others decades ago. Moore denies the charges.

"Everyone has to vote their convictions," said Kevin Mims of Montgomery, as he held his Bible outside his Baptist church Sunday in Montgomery. "My conviction is he's the right man for the job."

Where Moore's critics see a state judge who defied federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court's decision legalizing same-sex marriage, Mims see a stalwart who stands "on the word of God." Other conservatives see an anti-establishment firebrand in the mold of Trump, who won Alabama by 28 percentage points.