Republicans must make the midterm elections a referendum on Donald Trump or risk losing the House, according to former presidential adviser Steve Bannon. Bannon, whom many see as the architect of Trump’s victory and an Alt-Right figurehead, told the Associated Press that the GOP can still win the midterms.
“You can’t look at this as a midterm and you can’t run it out of the traditional Republican playbook. If you do that, you’re going to get smoked,” Bannon said.
Bannon strongly defended the President, claiming he has accomplished things his base wanted. He also warned that Republicans needed to frame the upcoming midterm elections as an up or down vote on Trump. While Bannon still believes Republicans can win, he acknowledged there was danger for the party.
Bannon believes that Republicans could lose 35 to 40 seats in the House if the election were held today. Democrats only need to pick up 24. But he is confident that the GOP can turn it around. He has set up a group called Citizens of the American Republic, which will try to frame the elections as a referendum on Trump. Bannon believes Trump’s base will come out to ‘protect’ the President from impeachment.
“This is not about persuasion. It’s too late to persuade anybody. We’re 90 days away from this election. This is all about turnout and what I call base-plus,” he said.
Bannon took some time to attack Nancy Pelosi, who may become Speaker of the House following a Democratic victory and suggested that Republicans should warn their supporters that Pelosi would try to impeach Trump or obstruct his agenda.
Despite his positive attitude, Bannon no longer has the kind of influence he did in 2016. Many Republicans are distancing themselves from Trump, even refusing to campaign with him. In other districts, however, Republican candidates who emulate Trump pose a problem for the GOP. Trump and his style are becoming increasingly toxic for independent voters and college-educated women – both key demographics in tight races.
It is unlikely Bannon’s advice will make much impact on Republicans, many of whom are preparing for a midterm defeat. Bannon’s words may be cold comfort to a party stymied by its own president.