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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

From Kingmaker to “The Cooler,” Bannon’s Stock as GOP Strategist Plummets

Just a few days ago Steve Bannon was a GOP kingmaker who had the President’s ear in his hip pocket. Today his cred as a Republican strategist lies squandered in the fading wake of Roy Moore’s humiliating defeat. As Paul Farhi explains in his article, “Alabama was supposed to turn Steve Bannon and Breitbart into kingmakers. Now what?” at The Washingon Post:

The election of Democrat Doug Jones was a stunning rejection of Bannon and the right-wing news-and-commentary website that pushed Moore’s candidacy despite questions about his moral character — he is accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls while in his 30s — let alone his ability to win an election long assumed to be a slam dunk for any conventional Republican candidate.

The Alabama results suggest that a reckoning is due for both Bannon and Breitbart, whose influence and audience grew exponentially during Trump’s presidential campaign. Since then, as support for Trump has declined, so has Breitbart’s traffic, settling back to the 15 million people a month it drew before a spike around the election last year.

Farhi quotes former Breitbart editor and frequent Bannon critic Ben Shapiro, who says,

“Steve Bannon lost an unloseable race…He thought [Moore] was the best pick of his life. His ego is so wild and his incompetence so large that he brought about the Kama Sutra of political debauchery. Every wrong move in the book was on full display here.”

Bannon stuck with Moore even when a more prudent strategist would have assessed the candidate as fatally wounded and urged a replacement like Jeff Sessions, who gave up the seat in January to become Trump’s attorney general, Shapiro said.

Instead, he said, Bannon doubled down, persuading Trump to throw his support behind Moore, which reluctantly drew the Republican National Committee back into supporting him. Shapiro, excoriating his old boss, said Bannon “grabs onto power with both hands, and he doesn’t let go. But he has so little to show for it and has earned so little of it himself.”

If Trump still feels he owes his election to Bannon, he may now refocus and see Bannon as a reckless ideologue. Trump likes to divide humanity into two camps, winners and losers, and all of a sudden Bannon is looking more like the political equivalent of “The Cooler.” Republican candidates who want to win would now be wise to pay attention to what Bannon advocates — and do the opposite.

Despite President Trump’s proclaimations about how he prizes loyalty, his record is more one of dumping associates in trouble, usually right around the moment that they have become a liability. Now for example, it’s “Roy who?,” instead of “Roy Moore will always vote with us. VOTE ROY MOORE!” The pattern is a few nice words about the associate about to be dumped, followed by acrid denunciations within a few weeks.

Callum Borchers writes, also at The Post,

“Trump’s direct involvement in the race was almost certainly orchestrated by Bannon, and you would expect Trump, who cares more about winning and losing than anyone, to place the blame at Bannon’s feet,” added Kurt Bardella, president of Endeavor Strategies and a former Breitbart spokesman…

Nevertheless, Bannon could find a way to keep the president’s ear, Bardella said…“Bannon will spin to Trump that last night is the result of a biased media and that Moore is the victim of the ‘fake news,’ the same way Trump is,” Bardella said. “He will try to play to Trump’s worst instincts to preserve his influence. Trump is susceptible to this, as we have seen repeatedly.”

Breitbart and Bannon will still have their die-hard supporters, and gullible primary challengers may seek their counsel now and again. Bannon is already involved in supporting Catherine Templeton in her Republican renegade run for Governor of South Carolina — against Trump’s favored candidate, Governor Henry McMaster, “which could mirror the GOP contest in Alabama that led to Moore’s nomination and ultimate defeat,” notes Meg Kinnard in her AP post, “How Does Alabama Loss Affect Bannon’s S. Carolina Gov Role?

Jonathan Allen writes at NBC news that Bannon’s latest ploy is to blame Moore’s defeat on Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. Despite McConnell’s tanking approval ratings, that’s going to be a tough sell outside Bannon’s shrinking circle of supporters.

No matter what Bannon undertakes in the near future, however, the very last thing most competitive Republican candidates want to see is Steve Bannon getting off a plane in their states. “I think we got this, but thanks anyway.” As far as Democratic strategy is concerned, the prudent thing to do is just get out of the way, and enjoy the GOP’s demolition derby.

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