One of President Donald Trump’s closest advisors and earliest supporters said Monday that he did not agree with Steve Bannon’s plan to challenge incumbent Republicans from sea to shining sea. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said, in fact, that it would be a colossally self-defeating war that wasted time and money that would be better spent going after Democrat seats in tight districts. In an interview with Laura Ingraham, Gingrich said that while there were a handful of Republicans who were not fully on board with Trump’s agenda, Bannon’s solution was not going to solve the bigger problem – namely, a thin majority in the Senate.
“I think it’s suicidally stupid,” Gingrich said of Bannon’s war on the establishment. “The problem is that there were 48 Democrats who voted ‘no’ on Obamacare and three Republicans who voted ‘no.’ If you took all the money that Bannon is going to raise to defeat Republicans and put it into defeating Democrats, we’d have a majority of 57 or 56 votes next year in the Senate. We’d pass virtually everything.”
Gingrich said that Bannon was going to end up fighting to dethrone many Republicans who had voted for Obamacare repeal and were right in line to vote for tax reform and immigration enforcement.
“So he’s actually going to go out and run against Republicans who voted with Trump. That’s what makes this whole thing to me mystical,” Gingrich said. “I mean, what’s the principal case? Can you be irritated with the Establishment? Sure. Are some of them occasionally jerks? Sure. By the way, is the president sometimes not very wise? Sure.”
Gingrich said it made sense for Bannon to throw money into the Tennessee race to replace the retiring Sen. Bob Corker.
“What doesn’t make sense is allocating this amount of money to trying to beat Republicans when you’ve got 10 Democrats in states that Trump carried,” he said. “And at least six of those Democrats are vulnerable. And they’re not going to be vulnerable if we focus the money on Republicans.”
Gingrich is right in a way and wrong in a way. He’s right about Bannon’s misguided attempt to throw incumbents out of office if you only go by the Obamacare vote and tax reform. He’s wrong, though, if you believe that Congress is leading Trump rather than the other way around. Is the Obamacare repeal plan that was nearly voted through in the Senate really what Trump wanted in a healthcare package, or was this the McConnell/Ryan plan with a thin veneer of MAGA on top? Same goes for tax reform. Are we going to see the kind of reform Trump promised on the campaign trail or something that comes straight out of the Heritage Foundation? When you look at it that way, you see why Bannon’s fight isn’t as self-defeating as Gingrich assumes. He would literally RATHER see Democrats take the Senate than to watch Trump get swallowed up by the same-old, same-old establishment conservatives.
We tend to agree, on balance, that it’s more important to keep and strengthen a Republican majority than it is to “prove a point” that could end up giving Democrats the gavel, but ultimately, it won’t be Bannon’s money that makes the decision – it will be the voters. And if the voters decide that incumbent Republicans need to go, it’s not difficult to figure out why they feel that way.