Former White House strategist Steve Bannon is backing several Senate candidates with ties to the GOP establishment.
In Montana, for example, the NRSC “has been media training” state Auditor Matt Rosendale (R), according to a person close to the campaign. In addition to any help he gets from Bannon, Rosendale is a client of the consulting firm On Message, one of the most ‘establishment consulting firms in Washington, which is running his media and digital operations.”
In Missouri, “Bannon is very interested in State Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), who was recruited by” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
Meanwhile, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-07), “a longtime conservative fixture in the House who has also gained Bannon’s nod of approval, is being advised in her Senate race by Ward Baker, a former executive director at the NRSC. She is also seen as the consensus pick who can win a general election.”
And in Ohio, state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R), “who has come up on Bannon’s radar” was backed in his 2012 bid by the McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund. (Politico)
ANALYSIS. “The threat by ... Bannon to go after sitting Republican senators with primary challenges is a textbook case of someone who holds a grand vision of politics but hasn’t demonstrated the ability to put tactical bite behind his bark. … Bannon has only as much influence outside of the White House as Trump allows.” In “private conversations with Republican congressional leaders," Trump has pledged to protect Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Deb Fischer (R-NE) “from intraparty opposition.”
In Nebraska, Bannon has “been in conversations with former Nebraska state Treasurer Shane Osborn (R) about challenging Fischer, according to a source familiar with Bannon’s recruitment strategy, even though Osborn ran unsuccessfully as the establishment candidate in a hotly contested 2014 Senate primary.” (National Journal)
TAX REFORM. Americans for Prosperity launched a new digital ad buy targeting 11 senators to support tax reform, including Sens. Bob Casey (D-PA), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Jon Tester (D-MT), and Dean Heller (R-NV). The group did not disclose the size of the buy. (Hotline reporting)
The ads follow AFP’s $4.5 million campaign targeting Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) on the issue.
MORE ON TAX REFORM. “McCaskill plans to head to the White House Wednesday to talk taxes, two days after a private dinner with Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner to discuss the same topic. Other Democrats in Trump-friendly states were also at the dinner. Still more will be at the Wednesday meeting. … So far, the Democrats are uniformly skeptical they can find common ground.”
It’s “very difficult to discuss what if anything we can agree to, when they don’t have a plan,” McCaskill said. (McClatchy)
Meanwhile, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) “said that if the president’s plan focuses on things like the child tax credit and giving incentives to corporations to keep jobs in the U.S., then he believes Democrats will get on board.” (Washington Times)