by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The loss of a safe Republican Senate seat woke up the conservative movement and the party to the potential cost of Bannon’s plans. More to the point, it woke up Trump, who after a year in office has a better appreciation of the value of a GOP Senate majority than perhaps he did when Bannon was running his presidential campaign.
The fruits of that realization were on display last week, when a Bannon recruit bowed to pressure from Trump and pulled out of a Nevada primary against incumbent senator Dean Heller. Danny Tarkanian had Bannon’s support and made it clear he wasn’t happy about giving up the chance to upend a relative moderate. But after the president tweeted that Tarkanian should run for an open House seat rather than engage in a bitter primary that would probably weaken the Republicans’ chances in the general, the challenger felt he had no choice but to do as he was told.
The impact of the tweet made two things clear. The first is that Bannon’s chances for leading a populist revolt are officially over. The second, if it wasn’t already obvious, is that the Republican party now belongs to Donald Trump.
Trump’s willingness to throw his weight around in a manner that reflects Mitch McConnell’s vision for how to pick Senate candidate has to cheer the GOP establishment. It could also make it easier for Republicans to hold on to their Senate majority in 2018 or even add to it, thanks to the large number of red-state Democrats running for reelection.
But this is far from assured. To the contrary, the fact that the GOP is now Trump’s party, rather than one that can defend its congressional majorities on ideological or traditional partisan lines, is exactly why it might lose ground in November.