With the Alabama Senate runoff ending in Steve Bannon’s favor, the former White House strategist has begun to consolidate power behind the scenes, even bringing in big-time GOP donors to his brand of Trumpism for the upcoming 2018 midterms. Since he left the President’s side as a paid adviser, Bannon has been sniping back at his former colleagues, and even the President directly, when it comes to fears that the nationalist influence in the Oval Office may be waning.
The Washington Examine reports on Bannon’s quiet plan to primary incumbent Republicans and replace them with populist candidates:
Steve Bannon has begun meeting with Republican donors at their request, as party financiers in the wake of the Alabama special election attempt to learn what President Trump’s former chief strategist has planned for 2018.
Some GOP bundlers, in Washington this week for a Republican National Committee fundraiser, sought meetings with Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, to forge relationships and better understand his plans to target Republican incumbents in 2018 primaries.
“It seems like McConnell’s star is fading and Bannon’s is rising. I wanted to break bread with the guy and figure out his thinking,” said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor from Phoenix who was scheduled to meet with Bannon on Wednesday.
Republican donors are furious with Senate Republicans — many with McConnell specifically. They’re disappointed with the outcome in Alabama and angry that the Senate hasn’t passed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.
With Bannon’s victory in Alabama, where he backed Roy Moore, and Trump begrudgingly backed Luther Strange, it’s clear that some GOP incumbents will be running scared if the populist powers align against them. Senator Bob Corker, a moderate Republican from Tennessee, has already announced his retirement, likely for fear of being primaried out of his seat. Bannon made waves in Alabama, proving he can overcome a direct Trump endorsement.
If Republican donors remain unhappy with McConnell and the party’s senate campaign arm struggles for donations as a result, incumbent Republicans could suffer a loss of resources, possibly empowering Bannon in the primary campaigns he chooses to get involved in.
In the Tennessee GOP primary in the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker, Bannon likes Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., a Republican source who spoke with him said. Bannon did not respond to a Tuesday afternoon email requesting comment.
The inaction of McConnell to get anything done in the Senate, in terms of the agenda most donors would like to see, is opening the door for Bannon’s influence to grow. It appears that he’s trying to persuade Trump that he can’t win without sticking to his populist red meat issues, and Bannon will see to it from the outside to ensure the message is sent loud and clear.
As another example of how Bannon is attempting to influence the White House from his perch at Breitbart, take the Las Vegas shooting and the new talk of gun control as an example:
In his ongoing effort to influence Trump outside the White House, Bannon warned the President that he would face a political cataclysm if he moved left on the issue.
“Impossible: will be the end of everything,” Bannon told Axios in a story published Tuesday. [Emphasis added]
Trump has mostly avoided the re-emerging debate over guns since Sunday’s massacre in Las Vegas; on Tuesday, he told reporters that “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”
In other words, the Breitbart media empire is prepared to go to war with the President, if need be. Donald Trump doesn’t like being challenged, and it’s very likely he was indeed angry at how things went down in Alabama.
The division has now begged the question of which one is more in touch with “Trumpism,” is it Trump or Bannon? The Washington Post tries to figure that out:
Appearing on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show [last] Monday night, the Breitbart News chairman suggested that he understands Trumpism better than Trump himself — that he is supporting Republican challenger Roy Moore instead of the president’s candidate, incumbent Sen. Luther Strange, because Moore is actually the ally Trump needs, whether he realizes it or not.
“What I’m here to do is to support Donald J. Trump by having folks down here support Judge Roy Moore,” Bannon told Hannity after speaking at a rally for Moore in Fairhope, Ala., on the eve of a GOP primary runoff. “I think Roy Moore is the guy that’s going to represent Donald Trump and fight the establishment.”
“We’re not here to defy President Trump,” Bannon added a moment later. “We were here to praise and honor him. And we think the best way to do that is to send somebody to Washington, D.C., out of Alabama — the good folks of Alabama to send somebody that’s going to have Donald Trump’s back.”
Bannon operates under the assumption that Trump can be easily influenced, and that influence may be coming more from party elites and Washington insiders now that most of the Breitbart clan has been purged from the White House payroll. This will make for an interesting 2018.