Mr. Bright, whose campaign produced a video asserting that Ms. Roby “turned her back on President Trump when he needed her most,” is not buying it. “She’s doing it to try to make amends,” he said in an interview.
Although a recycled sign at his campaign office near Montgomery bore a union label — a relic, he said, of his bygone days as a Democrat — Mr. Bright is trying both to persuade voters that he is the most favorable to Mr. Trump’s agenda and to explain his past support for Ms. Pelosi, the House Democratic leader. Ms. Roby makes for a ready-made foil.
“She injected her personal political beliefs over those of her constituents, and that’s what the people resent,” Mr. Bright said, as he repeatedly championed Mr. Trump while insisting that he did not condone any personal misconduct.
There is little dispute that Ms. Roby, whose spokeswoman said she was unavailable for comment for this article, would be on safer ground now if she had held back in 2016. But her predicament has begun to stir questions, even in a decidedly pro-Trump district, about the implications of setting up devotion to the president as the paramount test for candidates, even those who, like Ms. Roby, have reliably backed the party’s legislative agenda.
“I don’t think that eight years of Trump is going to be enough to totally divide the party, with people who are just that intensely loyal and won’t support anybody that doesn’t support him,” said Donna Horn, a Republican activist who runs a beer distributorship in Pike County and supports Ms. Roby. “But I do think who is the president after that is going to be a test of whether they can pull back or not.”
There are indications that top Republicans, including Mr. Trump, are preparing to try to defuse the situation, at least in this race. At the urging of Paul D. Ryan, speaker of the House, Vice President Mike Pence nearly interceded on Ms. Roby’s behalf in the primary, but he held off because Mr. Trump had not decided whether to forgive Ms. Roby. Republican officials now believe that both Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence will endorse her in the runoff.
Voters like Mrs. Lane-Overton, who attended Mr. Trump’s inauguration after Ms. Roby came up with tickets for her, are watching.
“If he gives the endorsement to her, I think Republicans would be crazy not to back her,” Mrs. Lane-Overton said. “If he says that he endorses her, there’s no doubt that he means it. He could just as easily slam her.”