Sunday, September 17, 2017

Trumpanzee vs Bannon


Trump is taking on the onus of a losing battle in Alabama against his own base on behalf Mitch McConnell, who he's said to detest. Background: last year Trump pulverized all his Republican presidential primary opponents in Alabama:
Senor Trumpanzee- 371,735 (43.4%)
Cruz- 180,608 (21.1%)
Rubio- 159,802 (18.7%)
Carson- 87,517 (10.2%)
Kasich- 37,970 (4.4%)
Jeb- 3,946 (0.5%)
Huckabee- 2,535 (0.3%)
Paul- 1,879 (0.2%)
Christie- 850 (0.1%)
Santorum- 616 (0.1%)
Fiorina- 543 (0.1%)
Lindsey Graham- 254 (0.0%)
Alabama has 5 counties that share a border and media markets with Florida but the Sunshine State's senator, Little Marco, didn't come close to Trump in any of them. (In fact, in Houston, Geneva and Covington counties, Rubio came in 3rd.) Trump went on to obliterate Hillary in the general, 1,318,255 (62.08%) to 729,547 (34.36%). He out-performed McCain 2008 and Romney 2012. Alabama's wide-eyed, slack-jawed bumpkins found the 3-card monte hustler of their dreams. And while Trump's popularity has started drifting downward even in some red bastions... he's more popular than ever in a state where white nationalism and racism are the keys to most Republican voters' hearts.

Alabama Republicans have a primary run-off election a week from Tuesday, on September 26, pitting neo-fascist former Judge Roy Moore against almost equally extreme appointed incumbent Luther Strange. Bannon and nearly every bigot and neo-Nazi in America have gotten behind Moore and the Republican establishment has lined up behind Strange. Strangely, Trump wound up backing Strange, something he reluctantly reiterated on Twitter last night, promising to hold one of his crazy campaign rallies in Huntsville next Saturday, 3 days before Moore buries Strange.

Moore came in first in the primary, 164,524 (38.87%) to Strange's 138,971 (32.83%). Third place runner-up, far right crackpot Mo Brooks, endorsed Moore last night moments before Trump came out again for the faltering Strange. A poll from Emerson College last week showed Moore beating Strange 40-26%, with 34% of Republican voters still undecided. (Democrat Doug Jones, who will face the winner of the runoff December 12, is in a statistical dead heat with each one of them, but appears to fare best against Strange.)

As of the July 26 filing deadline, Strange had spent about $2 million dollars more than Moore-- $2,286,479 to $286,421. Strange had $934,268 cash on hand and Moore had $173,386. But that was before Bannon and Mercer got involved. No one knows quite what to expect from them aside from hot air. So far though, millions of dollars-- approaching $10-- have been spent by McConnell and his allies to bolster Strange. It hasn't done any good at all, as he's lost ground with every dollar the establishment has thrown in in his favor. Not even Trump's endorsement helped Strange in the first round. Last night, Politico's Alex Isenstadt, looked at the Trump vs Bannon aspect of the race. Señor Trumpanzee's decision yesterday "to intervene in the Alabama special election followed weeks of pleas from senior Republicans who fear that a loss will invite a wave of primary challenges against GOP incumbents and damage the party in the 2018 midterms." Yes... Bannon and Mercer have teamed up to destroy the Republican Party establishment-- and have claimed Trump "secretly" backs them.
Trump’s unexpected move sets the stage for a showdown between the president and his recently departed chief strategist, Steve Bannon, who is all-in for Moore. Bannon has cast the Alabama race as an-important clash between grass-roots conservatives and the Washington establishment-- and a test for whether other incumbent senators can be successfully challenged by insurgents in 2018.

In response, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other incumbent senators-- including Strange himself-- have leaned on the president for more help.

...Trump’s refusal until Saturday to commit to a pre-runoff rally fueled fears at the highest levels of the party that the unpredictable president would switch his endorsement to Moore. During a private meeting with Trump this month, McConnell, who views the race a top political priority, made a forceful case why Strange was the right candidate. The president told the leader he had no intention of withdrawing his support for the senator, according to three people familiar with the meeting.

...The save-Strange campaign comes at a time of growing concern in the GOP that lawmakers up for reelection in 2018 will face treacherous primary fights that divert party resources from unseating Democrats. Bannon has described the Alabama race as the initial front in a midterm war aimed at undermining McConnell.

A Moore win, Bannon has argued, could open the floodgates for conservative insurgents in states like Arizona, Nevada, and Tennessee. The addition of truculent conservatives backed by Bannon to the Senate could also make it more difficult for McConnell to corral his conference.

Bannon is working overtime on Moore’s behalf. The Breitbart chief held a private meeting with the former judge on Capitol Hill last week and is encouraging conservative power brokers to get behind Moore. An outside group that Bannon is aligned with, Great America Alliance, has begun advertising on Moore’s behalf. The group is also expected to host a pro-Moore rally headlined by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

“The establishment should be worried,” said Andrew Surabian, who worked for Bannon in the White House and is a senior adviser to Great America Alliance. “Republican voters rejected all of their preferred candidates in the 2016 presidential primary, they’re in the midst of rejecting their golden boy in Alabama and I’m confident they will reject their never-Trump stalking horses running in 2018.”

McConnell has expressed concern privately that a post-Alabama avalanche of primary challengers could badly undermine the party’s midterm election prospects. Hoping to stem the tide, the McConnell-controlled National Republican Senatorial Committee has deployed staffers to the state, and a pro-McConnell super PAC has aired around $7 million worth of commercials, with roughly $1 million more set for the final week.

It's a remarkably large investment for a seat in a conservative state that is almost certain to remain in the party’s hands. Jeff Sessions had held the seat for two decades before becoming attorney general. Strange was appointed temporarily to fill the seat until a special election was held.

Trump shares little of McConnell’s interest in stopping Republican primaries-- in some instances, he has relished stoking them. Last month Trump flew to Arizona, where he attacked GOP Sen. Jeff Flake at a campaign-style rally and met with several potential challengers to the incumbent. McConnell has repeatedly pleaded with the White House to recognize the threat primaries pose to his conference, though he’s expressed uncertainty the president fully understands the problem.

Within the White House, there was widespread uncertainty about whether Trump would visit Alabama before the runoff. With polls showing Strange behind, aides were concerned about the president expending political capital in a southern state that helped to catapult his 2016 campaign. Trump’s team had considered several other, more limited options, such as cutting a robocall for Strange or tweeting in his favor.

...Regardless of what transpires in Alabama, some GOP officials are bracing for a brutal primary season pitting longtime lawmakers against flame-throwing challengers.

Particularly concerning, they say, has been McConnell's declining popularity in the wake of the failed health care repeal. In the weeks since, Moore has aggressively tied Strange to the Senate Republican leader, making McConnell a centerpiece in his TV ads. If Moore wins, his approach could serve as a template for other insurgent candidates.

The assault from pro-McConnell forces has allowed Moore to portray himself as the underdog. During a recent appearance before the Weyrich Lunch, a closed-door gathering of conservative leaders in Washington, Moore said the Washington establishment wants nothing more than to bring him down.

“This is a fight,” said Moore adviser Brett Doster, “between Luke Skywalker and the Death Star.”
Is there any doubt who national security adviser H.R. McMaster was talking about when he was interviewed on Fox News Sunday this morning and said, "The National Security Council...has served the president well in bringing him multiple options... There were some who tried to operate outside of that process for their own narrow agendas and that didn't serve the president well."

Michael Scherer and Matea Gold were busy on a similar story for the Washington Post last night. "If 'war' against the Republican establishment," they wrote, "is what former White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon wants, then war is what he will get. Deep-pocketed supporters of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and other GOP leaders have resolved to fight a protracted battle over the next year for the soul of the party in congressional primaries. 'It’s shaping up to be McConnell, the Senate Leadership Fund and the Chamber against Bannon,' said Scott Reed, the senior political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 'And we will take that fight.'" This is music to the ears of Washington Democrats, who need the help... badly.
But the task will not be easy. Strategists from both sides of the party’s divide say recent focus groups and polling have shown that the frustration within the Republican base has only grown since the 2016 election, stoked by an inability to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health-care law. President Trump, meanwhile, has continued to cast his presidency in opposition to the current ways of Washington, which could encourage primary voters to buck the system in a way that endangers House and Senate incumbents.

...In a sign of fights to come, the two Republican candidates are now competing to demonstrate their disgust with Washington politics. Strange, who was appointed this year to take the seat of Attorney General Jeff Sessions, begins one of his most recent television ads looking at the camera and announcing that he is “mad at Washington politicians.”

Moore describes his campaign as an effort to hurt McConnell, drain the swamp and bring more radical policies to the Senate, including a possible effort to impeach sitting U.S. Supreme Court justices for affirming the constitutionality of same-sex marriages.

Although Trump has endorsed Strange, Bannon is backing Moore-- and using the conservative website he runs, Breitbart News, to hammer the incumbent as a “swamp monster.”

Allies of McConnell have been blanketing the Alabama airwaves to shrink Moore’s polling lead. After spending nearly $4 million on ads before the first primary vote in August, the Senate Leadership Fund plans to blitz the state with another $4 million before the Sept. 26 runoff. So far this year, the super PAC has raised more than $11 million, including a $1 million infusion from hedge fund manager Paul Singer [the very personification of The Swamp] last month, federal filings show.

The Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee have also sunk money into the race to defend Strange. The Business Council of Alabama, working with the U.S. Chamber, plans a major employee get-out-the-vote operation to support Strange by arguing that he will be better for the state’s industry and jobs. The chamber has also paid for a statewide mailer and an ad campaign that will include a spot during Saturday’s Alabama and Auburn college football games. “There is no taking it back,” Reed said. “Alabama is the big enchilada.”

The Senate Leadership Fund is also taking aim at Bannon himself in an effort to tarnish his position as a champion of the Trump political movement. Law released a statement on Tuesday calling Bannon “dead wrong” for using a recent 60 Minutes interview to criticize Trump’s decision to fire former FBI director James B. Comey.

At the Chamber, Reed echoed the criticism of Bannon for breaking with Trump. “He is turning into a rallying point for the alt-right, which is kind of bizarre because half of what he does is damage his former client and friend, whom he served as chief strategist for,” Reed said.

Bannon declined to comment. But a person familiar with his thinking described the pushback by McConnell allies as “the corrupt and incompetent political class” taking on Trump’s base.

Bannon’s allies scoffed at the notion that the McConnell-allied groups could drive a wedge between Trump’s supporters and Bannon. “At the end of the day, folks like that think the president’s base is stupid,” said a person close to the conservative media executive. “It shows the arrogance of the Republican political class in Washington.”

To counter the onslaught against Moore, the conservative advocacy group Great America Alliance, which is now overseen by Bannon protege and former deputy White House political director Andy Surabian, released a digital ad Tuesday featuring a montage of grainy photos of McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) that argues over a rock-n-roll score that Strange was “appointed by the swamp.”

The group and its allies do not intend to match the volume of anti-Moore ads on television, but there are plans for a bus tour of the state by conservative activists in the next couple of weeks to support the Moore campaign, culminating in a major rally before the election. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has endorsed Moore, is expected to travel to Alabama to appear as part of the tour.

And Moore allies have hope that their side will see an infusion of big money, too. Great America and its sister super PAC have new links to Bannon and his political patrons, the wealthy Mercer family. The former White House strategist does not have a formal role with the organizations, but he helped install Surabian as the top strategist at the advocacy group, according to a person familiar with his role.

Ed Rollins, the veteran GOP strategist who leads Great America PAC, said he has recently “exchanged some ideas” with Bannon, for whom he said he has “great respect.” And he has also been in talks with the Mercers, influential but idiosyncratic donors who often buck the GOP party establishment.

“We are having discussions but no formal ties at this point,” Rollins said of the family. “The more we can get going in the same direction, the better. We certainly have had some conversations.”

If they decide to put serious sums into groups taking on establishment candidates, hedge fund magnate Robert Mercer and his middle daughter, Rebekah, could help fuel the GOP’s latest internecine battles. Before supporting Trump in the 2016 presidential campaign, they gave $13.5 million to a super PAC that backed Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Trump’s longest-lasting challenger for the nomination.

A spokeswoman for the Mercer family did not respond to a request for comment.

But there are already indications the Mercers plan to use their money to take on GOP incumbents this cycle. In late July, Robert Mercer gave $300,000 to a super PAC allied with former Arizona state senator Kelli Ward, who is challenging Republican Sen. Jeff Flake in the state’s primary, federal filings show.

Mercer also contributed $50,000 this summer to a new super PAC, Remember Mississippi, set up by an aide to state Sen. Chris McDaniel, who is considering challenging GOP incumbent Sen. Roger Wicker in the state.

Meanwhile, the pro-Trump super PAC America First and its sister advocacy group-- which have emerged as the president’s officially approved outside groups-- have largely stayed out of the intraparty fights. Since making a small digital ad buy for Strange in early August, before the first round of voting in the Alabama special election, the PAC has not invested any money in the contest.

Trump’s own apparent ambivalence over the Alabama race hints at the complicating factor he is likely to play in the coming fights. Although he endorsed Strange, he has not yet cut any political advertisements.

After the first round of primary elections, he tweeted congratulations to both men who made it through to the runoff, notably listing Moore’s name first. “Congratulation to Roy Moore and Luther Strange,” the tweet said, adding, “Exciting race!”

...Republican strategists aiming to defend incumbents say they expect Trump to be an unreliable partner in the coming season. The president tends to approach questions of political loyalty on a case-by-case basis instead of as a party leader. And he is intent on keeping some distance from Republican congressional leadership, which has so far failed to deliver on his promise of Obamacare repeal.

In many ways, the coming 2018 contests will be a rematch of high-stakes primary fights that have taken place every two years since the 2008 election, when self-branded tea party challengers began trying to unseat incumbent Republicans. Flake and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who both face reelection next year, expect populist primary challenges this year. Several primary contests will be for seats with no Republican incumbent, such as those in Michigan, Montana and possibly Utah, where party insiders worry that the more anti-establishment candidates could jeopardize Republicans’ general-election hopes.

“2018 is going to be a wave election, and it is going to be an anti-incumbent wave election,” said Eagle Forum Fund President Ed Martin, who has been traveling the country to hold events to pressure moderate Republicans to support the Trump agenda. “Any Republican that is in office as an incumbent is on the line.”

After the 2010 and 2012 elections, which saw Republicans lose Senate races in Missouri, Delaware, Indiana, Colorado and Nevada with tea party candidates, both the Chamber and McConnell decided to be more aggressive in Senate primaries. Since then, the insider powers have tended to have the upper hand, winning the Senate elections they have contested in the primary. McConnell himself survived a tough tea party challenge in 2014, and a huge influx of television spending helped Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) hold off a strong primary challenge that same year.
Enjoy the show; buy plenty of popcorn-- and please consider helping elect progressives to replace a weakened, depleted and bloodied Republican Party. Don't leave it to the DSCC and the DCCC or we'll just wind up with nothing but another version of The Swamp Americans are so, so sick of.

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At 6:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's fucking Alabama. won't matter who wins that runoff. Some racist assclown wins. The usa loses. period.


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