Allies of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared open warfare on Wednesday against Stephen Bannon, the former White House chief strategist and leader of an insurrection aimed at defeating mainstream GOP candidates in next year’s midterm elections.
More than a year ahead of the 2018 congressional contests, a super PAC aligned with McConnell, R-Ky., revealed plans to attack Bannon personally as it works to protect incumbents facing uphill primary fights. The effort reflects the growing concern of Republican lawmakers over the rise of anti-establishment forces and comes amid escalating frustration over President Donald Trump’s conduct, which has prompted a handful of lawmakers to publicly criticize the president.
Yet the retaliatory crusade does not aim to target Trump, whose popularity remains high among Republican voters. Instead, the McConnell-allied Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) will highlight Bannon’s hard-line populism and attempt to link him to white nationalism to discredit him and the candidates he will support. It will also boost candidates with traditional GOP profiles and excoriate those tied to Bannon, with plans to spend millions and launch a heavy social media presence in some states.
The turbulence presents a danger to Republicans’ narrow 52-seat majority in the Senate, with seasoned GOP lawmakers deciding to not seek reelection amid the political storm – and with many GOP voters cheering the rancor that Bannon has stoked from his perch at his website, Breitbart.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post · David Weigel, Michael Scherer, Robert Costa