What Roy Moore hoped to do inside Magnolia Springs Baptist Church, as the Associated Press saw it, was put the drama behind him.
He wanted to get away from the accusations that have entangled his Senate campaign — that he preyed on teen girls as a younger man — and get back to the Christian-infused politics that had made him a popular judge-turned-candidate in Alabama. And he wanted to do it with a half-hour speech, written especially for an intimate crowd of worshipers at a small-town church outside Mobile on a Wednesday night.
No fan of Moore, the late-night ABC host had dispatched a sort of weaponized comedian to the church — a performer who had been infiltrating political rallies for years, impersonating an aging die-hard Republican with the manic energy of a cheerleader.
The comedian’s name is Tony Barbieri, but he told people at the church he was “Jake Byrd” — who worked at the Thrifty Lizard up the highway and had come to church that night because he was, as his baseball cap proclaimed, Moore’s No. 1 fan.