WASHINGTON ― Steve Bannon was credited as being the political mastermind behind Donald Trump’s seemingly impossible path to the White House. After a humiliating loss in Alabama on Tuesday, the feared executive chairman of Breitbart News, is looking like anything but.
Democrat Doug Jones’ shocking Senate victory over accused child predator Roy Moore prompted a wave of GOP recriminations against Bannon, a former White House strategist who has targeted the GOP establishment over what he views as insufficient support of the president.
“You have to nominate people who can actually win. Winners make policy, and losers go home,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said in October, after reports surfaced that Bannon was attempting to recruit Trump-friendly candidates to challenge GOP Senate incumbents across the country.
Bannon was one of Moore’s earliest supporters, backing him over Trump’s preferred candidate in the Republican primary, Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to fill the seat vacated by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Bannon even doubled down on Moore after a number of women came forward to accuse him of preying on them while they were teenage girls and he was an assistant district attorney in his 30s.
Bannon’s critics quickly seized on Moore’s stunning loss Tuesday in crimson red Alabama ― a state Trump carried in last year’s presidential election by nearly 30 points ― as evidence of Bannon’s political incompetence.
“This is a brutal reminder that candidate quality matters regardless of where you are running,” said Steve Law, president of the Senate Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC aligned with McConnell. “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 his fiasco.”
Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to McConnell, tweeted, “I’d just like to thank Steve Bannon for showing us how to lose the reddest state in the union.”
Conservative media figures quickly chimed in, blaming Bannon for Tuesday’s result.
”Ca[n] we stop now with the “Bannon is a masterful strategist” nonsense? I’ve never seen such descriptions used more and deserved less,” tweeted conservative radio host Dana Loesch.
David French, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, tweeted, “Heckuva job Steve.”
While Jones bested Moore by about 20,000 votes late Tuesday, the former Alabama Supreme Court justice refused to concede defeat, adding that he would seek a recount.
GOP strategist Doug Heye lamented Tuesday’s result as “entirely avoidable” because Republicans could have chosen an incumbent senator “who would have easily won re-election.” But Heye urged Republicans to temper their rhetoric over Moore’s loss.
“While many Republicans are breathing a sigh of relief over dodging a bullet, they shouldn’t be spiking the football too hard ― we still have malaria.”