Bannon’s plans are more ominous than publicly known, sources tell Jonathan Swan and me:
- Some of Bannon’s candidates for Republican primaries have privately pledged they’ll oppose Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. It’s becoming a de facto litmus test in Bannon’s recruitment.
- Bannon vows to support primary challengers against every incumbent Republican senator running for re-election in 2018 — with the sole exception of Ted Cruz. So that could mean seven Bannon GOP challengers, and he has as many as eight Democratic senators in his sights.
- Bannon is also exploring gubernatorial and House races.
- As Bannon told Fox’s Sean Hannity this week: “Nobody’s safe. We’re coming after all of them.”
- “Steve views this thing as a coalition,” says a source familiar with his plans. “It’s a coalition of populists, constitutional conservatives and more libertarian types. But they all agree on Bannon’s core issues of trade and immigration.”
The GOP establishment is skeptical but scared. Bannon has juice with the base, and feels emboldened about his “House of Pain” after his candidate, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, took down incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in last month’s primary.
- A former official in the Trump White House, dumbfounded and irritated, sent Swan a blitz of text messages: “You watching Bannon [on] Hannity? Most parties descend into civil war following defeat. We’re about to have one 11 months after we won everything. How do you get tax reform, infrastructure or health care done in that climate? It’s Bannon who could wind up nullifying Trump’s presidency.”
- “It’s Bannon who could hand a house of a Congress back to Dems.”
- Andy Surabian, a political adviser to Bannon, responded by saying this person was recycling a “tired talking point” that the Republican establishment got wrong in 2010, 2014, and 2016, when grassroots conservatives delivered Republicans the House and the Senate, and White House.