MILLBROOK, Ala. (AP) -- An Alabama Republican congresswoman who once distanced herself from President Donald Trump over his "Access Hollywood" comments is now relying on his endorsement as she fights off a surprisingly strong GOP challenger.
Rep. Martha Roby is facing Democrat-turned-Trump Republican Bobby Bright on Tuesday, trying not to become the third congressional Republican to lose her job this primary season.
From the outside, the race shouldn't be close. Roby is a four-term incumbent in deep-red Alabama. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have endorsed her. And her Republican opponent supported Nancy Pelosi when he served as a Democrat in Congress.
But as is often the case in the Trump era, the conventional rules of politics do not apply.
Roby's survival depends on whether voters are sufficiently convinced she's on board with Trump's agenda after criticizing him in 2016 when he was caught bragging about sexually predatory behavior in the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape.
The remarks, she said at the time, made Trump "unacceptable" as a Republican candidate for president. She's spent much of the last two years trying to convince her constituents in Alabama's 2nd Congressional District that she is a reliable vote for the administration.
Some voters Tuesday indicated they were willing to let Roby's comments about Trump go as they cast ballots for her.
Don Bascom, a retired mechanical engineer who lives in Prattville, said he voted for Roby. Bascom said although he generally supports the Trump administration, he also shared Roby's 2016 Trump concerns.
"I think she has done a good job. She's an incumbent so to some degree she's proven herself. One of the criticisms I've heard of her is that she simply couldn't vote for Trump when he ran, and to be honest I couldn't either because of the way he treats people. I think he's mellowed a little bit. I wish she would mellow a lot more," he said.
Deborah Gilliam, a registered nurse from Millbrook, Ala., said Roby's comments about Trump bothered her but she ultimately voted for her. She said Roby hasn't done anything too terrible, and felt uneasy with Bright's party switch.
"It was a toss-up," Gilliam said. "I'll give her one more chance. Bright, he switched from Democrat to Republican. You don't know if they're doing it for votes."
Roby earned just 39 percent of the vote in the first primary contest back in June, forcing a runoff against the second-place vote getter.
Despite her past criticism, the Trump White House has emerged as Roby's most powerful backer.
Trump himself endorsed Roby on Twitter, calling her a "reliable vote for our Make America Great Again Agenda" and bashing Bright as "a recent Nancy Pelosi voting Democrat."
Vice President Mike Pence recorded phone calls for Roby, also calling her a reliable vote for the Trump agenda.
Roby has argued that she's "a conservative Republican with a proven record."
"I've worked with the administration to get conservative policies across the finish line. My opponent voted for Nancy Pelosi to be speaker," Roby said during a campaign stop at a south Alabama lumber company. She also touted her support for a border wall and opposition to abortion.
Bright, who represented the district for two years as a Democrat, argues that he's more conservative than Roby, whom he calls an establishment Republican who hasn't "stayed connected" with the heavily agrarian and military district.
"I'm not an elitist. I'm not what they refer to as a blue blood. I'm a populist. I talk with the people and so does (Trump)," said Bright, the 13th of 14 children born into a sharecropping family.
Roby has enjoyed a 5-to-1 fundraising advantage over Bright. She's used the arsenal to hammer Bright in television ads over his Democratic background - particularly his 2009 vote for Pelosi as House speaker.
While many Washington Republicans expect Roby to win on Tuesday, the anticipated low turnout in the midsummer affair offers an air of unpredictability.