You know the old saying about paybacks? President Trump’s allies are planning to field a slate of primary challengers to run against GOP senators that haven’t supported the president’s agenda. This could undermine the party’s chances in 2018 and create even further tension between present Republican leadership and the White House.
The effort is being spearheaded by Steve Bannon, the “street fighter” who left as chief White House strategist in August to retake his seat with Breitbart News. He seems to be starting an all out war against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican establishment. Bannon has been holding private meetings with potential challengers and vowing his support. He is also coordinating with Robert Mercer, a huge financial donor who is ready to give millions of dollars to go after GOP incumbents.
The senior Republicans in Washington seem to be alarmed about the millions of dollars this effort may drain from the party’s money needed to defeat Democrats in the general election. McConnell has been vocal about his concern about contentious primaries posing a danger to keeping the four-seat majority.
“The issue is: Do you invest your time and energy in attacking people who are carrying this president’s water in Congress to the benefit of people who are trying to impeach him? That seems like an incredibly short-sighted strategy,” said Josh Holmes, a former McConnell chief of staff.
At the center of Bannon’s target is Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, an outspoken critic of the president. Flake recently published a book that lamented the rise of Trump. Bannon has joined forces with David Bossie, leader of the influential conservative group Citizens United, to recruit potential primary challengers to Flake.
This opposition effort could reshape the 2018 landscape, pitting a group of pro-Trump challengers against incumbents perceived as mainstream and paralyzing the White House agenda.
This is not the first time that Bannon has gone after the Republican establishment in Senate primaries. In the 2014 midterm elections, he used his Breitbart platform to promote several insurgent challengers. None of the Breitbart backed politicians won, but it did drain millions of dollars from party leadership. This time, Bannon has Mercer in his pocket with significant funding potential. The billionaire has already expressed a desire to use his money to go after sitting GOP lawmakers. He has donated $300,000 to an anti-Flake super PAC and has indicated that he wants to give more to unseat the senator.
“I don’t think anyone should be surprised at primary challenges in GOP Senate races, especially against those senators that have appeared to be less than helpful to the Trump agenda. And I think those primary challengers will be well funded,” said Ned Ryun, a conservative strategist who has written for Breitbart. “It’s a natural reaction by the base to what they’ve perceived as a perhaps intentional inability to pass any Trump agenda items.”
Do you think the effort to unseat GOP incumbents in the 2018 elections will be successful, or do you think it’s just what the Democrats are hoping for?