President Trump said that challengers to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s allies have “scattered” after the defeat of grassroots candidate Roy Moore in Alabama. The comment came in response to a question about whether the president would be campaigning for Republican primary challengers in this year’s senatorial elections. “I don’t see that happening at this moment, no. I think they’ve sort of scattered,” the president said.
Former campaign strategist Steve Bannon had vowed to support primary challengers to every Republican Senator running for reelection this year. The goal of his self-declared “war” on the Republican establishment was two-fold: to get candidates elected who would vote against McConnell as Senate Leader, and who would support doing away with the filibuster in the Senate. Bannon has accused McConnell and others of working against President Trump’s agenda from the first days of the administration.
In response to Bannon’s declaration of war, McConnell and his allies declared their own war on Bannon. And seemed to take delight in Moore’s defeat in Alabama. (Moore was heavily backed by Bannon.) The Senate Leadership Fund, a PAC closely aligned with McConnell, said in a statement after Moore’s loss, “This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running. Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into this fiasco,” the statement read.
Bannon has vowed to fight on after the consequential loss in Alabama, but it remains to be seen how much political capital he still has. A very public row with the president last week has hurt his brand with the grassroots, and important financial backers have made their separation from him public in recent days.