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McConnell: Bannon a specialist ‘at nominating people who lose’

Greg Nash

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) offered a stinging rebuke of former White House strategist Stephen Bannon for targeting GOP congressional candidates on Sunday, calling Bannon and his allies “specialists at nominating people who lose.”

“The kind of people who are supported by the element that you’ve just been referring to are specialists in defeating Republican candidates in November,” McConnell told Dana Perino on “Fox News Sunday.”

“And that’s what this inter-party skirmish is about. Our goal is to nominate people in the primaries next year who can actually win, and the people who win will be the ones who enact the president’s agenda,” he continued. 

McConnell was firing back at Bannon, who said last week at the Values Voter Summit in Washington that he was declaring a “season of war” on the GOP establishment. Some conservatives are frustrated with Republicans in Congress, blaming them for recent failures to push through Trump-backed legislation.

{mosads}”They’ve been out there for a number of years,” McConnell said Sunday of anti-establishment backers like Bannon. “They cost us five Senate seats in 2010 and 2012. We would have got the majority sooner but for the fact they were able to nominate people who could not win in November. In ’14 they were defeated everywhere, in ’16 they were defeated everywhere, and the difference is we’ve been in the majority in 2014 and 2016, two congresses in a row.” 

Many GOP leaders and campaign committees have expressed concern about funneling funds into primaries in order to defeat conservative challengers who might not be able to beat Democratic challengers in general elections.

“Look, this is not about personalities. This is about achievement. And in order to make policy, you have to win the election,” McConnell continued. 

Bannon last weekend went on to rip McConnell, saying he’s been getting requests to find “the Brutus” to his “Julius Caesar,” comparing the Senate Majority Leader to the Roman emperor who was stabbed in the back by his trusted friend.

“Yeah, Mitch, the donors are not happy. They’ve all left ya. We’ve cut your oxygen off, Mitch, OK?” he continued. 

Bannon has backed a plethora of anti-establishment GOP candidates, most notably Alabama Senate nominee Roy Moore, in an effort to undermine establishment Republicans on Capitol Hill. 

Despite the harsh comments on his main point of contact in the GOP-controlled Senate, President Trump appeared to back Bannon on Monday. 

“I like Steve a lot. Steve is doing what Steve thinks is the right thing,” Trump said. Trump backed Moore’s opponent, siding with McConnell against Bannon, in the Alabama primary.

“Some of the people that he may be looking at, I’m going to see if we talk him out of that, because frankly they’re great people,” Trump added.

That same day, however, Trump insisted that Republicans in Congress were unified. 

“I’m friends with most of them. I like and respect most of them, and I think they like and respect me. The Republican Party is very, very unified,” he said.

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