If “war” against the Republican establishment 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.”
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.
“Just as in 2008, the election did little to let the air out of the tires,” said Steven Law, the president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC allied with McConnell that plans to spend heavily on Senate primaries in support of incumbents. “The raw material of the electorate is just increasingly volatile.”
The first battle will conclude this month in Alabama, where the incumbent senator — establishment-backed Luther Strange — is fighting uphill against former state Supreme Court judge Roy Moore, a conservative evangelical jurist who has twice been removed from the bench for defying legal decisions. Known for his conviction that Christian teachings are the source of all government authority, Moore has twice been elected statewide to the Supreme Court, but he also lost two primary campaigns for governor, in 2006 and 2010. He bested Strange by a margin of 39 percent to 33 percent in the first round of Senate primary voting last month.
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.), who came in third in the first round of primary voting, threw his support behind Moore at a rally Saturday. “It is truly amazing the audacity, the ego of the special-interest groups and the political action committees as they try to buy this United States Senate race thinking that with impunity they can run over the people of the state of Alabama,” Brooks declared.
Read more at the Washington Post.