For those of you keeping score on Day Two of the Steve Bannon-Donald Trump war for the shriveled soul of the Republican Party, the CEO of Breitbart News has been “shot on the South Lawn and run over by a tank and the president shifted in gear and ran over him again,” according to Trump super PAC strategist Ed Rollins. “I’ve never seen anybody blown up like he was.”
That is POLITICO’s lede this morning. The future of Bannonism/Trumpism is suddenly in doubt. Do Republicans need to worry about primary candidates to their right anymore? Worse, the Republicans Bannon endorsed have started to distance themselves from him.
On Wednesday evening, a spokesman for Kelli Ward, the candidate Bannon is backing in the Arizona Senate race, and who has attended parties at Breitbart headquarters in Washington, issued a statement about Bannon.
Bannon, said the Ward spokesman, “is only one of many high-profile endorsements Dr. Ward has received.”
The president’s public statement excoriating Bannon may have delighted Mr. Rollins, but it did not specifically refute Bannon’s statement to journalist Michael Wolff that his family’s 2016 meeting with Russians was “treasonous.”
Still, there was the apparent breakup with Rebekah Mercer, the hedge fund zillionaire’s daughter with a penchant for right-wing nutjobbery. The Mercer family holds a key stake in Breitbart’s financial structure:
Bannon has in recent weeks also alienated his main financial backer, Rebekah Mercer, after he told several other major conservative donors that he would be able to count on the Mercers’ financial support should he run for president, a person familiar with the conversations said. The person said Mercer now does not plan to financially support Bannon’s future projects — and that she was frustrated by his moves in Alabama and some of his comments in the news media that seemed to stoke unnecessary fights.
“The core constituency for Breitbart is what you would call the Trump Deplorables,” the Post reports in a blind quote. “That’s the audience. And if they’re asked to choose between Steve and Trump, they’re going to choose Trump. That’s clear.”
While the “platform of the alt-right” is breaking under him, however, bear in mind that Steve Bannon is also correct that Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation is tightening around Trump’s neck like a noose, and he can probably corroborate key testimony in the ultimate unraveling of the Trump presidency.
Trump, who lives by the modernist dictum that all politics are personal, reportedly fumed over Christmas that Bannon gave him just a 30 percent chance of surviving a full term in office. Bannon’s estimation has probably dropped since that quote in Vanity Fair, and like any good Goldman Sachs alum, he knows how to short a stock.
Bannon told his Sirius XM radio audience last night that he still supports Trump — a rare show of grace, even submission, from the avowed Honey Badger. But privately, he is planning to win the war for party control that will undoubtedly take place after Trump.
In a post-Trump world, Steve Bannon will have connections to the conservative movement. Republican incumbents? They have no plan for the war over the party after Trump. So while Bannon is apparently down for now, don’t count him out, and don’t count out the political movement that he shaped in order to elevate Trump.
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