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Why Steve Bannon Would Fuel Donald Trump Toward Victory


“The Trump campaign is dead.” “Voters are getting tired of his outrageous statements.” “Joe Biden has an insurmountable lead.” The 2020 narrative is like 2016 all over again. But there is a significant difference between then and now, and it is that Donald Trump no longer has Steve Bannon.


Think back to the lowest point of the 2016 Trump campaign. One month before the election, the Access Hollywood tape was leaked to the press in that blow to the Republican candidate. Any traditional campaign manager would have advised Trump to issue an apology and grovel before a hostile media. But Bannon instructed Trump to stand his ground. He knew that far more important than innuendo and “locker room talk” in an old tape was a fundamental understanding of the mindset and needs of the voters.

As chief executive officer of the 2016 Trump campaign, Bannon captured lightning in a bottle. For a 2020 Trump campaign beset by leaks, appeals to ungettable voters, and the damage from the coronavirus, only Bannon can bring in the missing spark. It might be hard to catch lightning twice, but the president cannot afford to leave out the only person of his first campaign who pulled off an unprecedented win four years ago.

Since the days of the second George Bush, several Republican candidates would react to media trends and allow Candy Crowley moments to define their campaigns. The time that Bannon had spent at Breitbart gave him a unique perspective on how to drive the national debate instead of simply responding to narratives set forth by legacy media outlets.

Bannon neutralized criticisms of Trump while hitting a crucial weakness of the opposition, by parading the sexual assault accusers of Bill Clinton into a room full of mainstream reporters for a surprise panel just before the second debate. This move forced the press to cover his checkered past with women and marked a tremendous turnaround on the ground just two days after the Access Hollywood tape was released.

Consider the current media landscape, which forces Trump to respond to claims that American society is racist and to coverage about coronavirus cases exploding in red states. While Trump struggles to find his message, it is Bannon who has the finger on those issues most important to Trump voters. Listen to his War Room podcast for a better idea of what the 2020 Republican bid must talk about. Bannon knows the threat from China and the loss of American jobs. Instead of Trump fighting the culture war over race, or arguing about masks, he should take control of the narrative and speak to the blue-collar workers who sent him to victory.

When several Republican candidates tried to win with outreach to young and Latino voters, including in 2008 and 2012, Bannon knew the Rust Belt held the key to victory for Trump, whose odds fell to below 20 percent a month before the election, according to political forecasters. Rather than spending valuable time apologizing, Trump engaged in a spectacular blitz of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. Each of these states had not been carried by a Republican candidate in years.

Unfortunately, the Trump team today does not seem to understand any of this. Demoting Brad Parscale for the establishment campaign experience of Bill Stepien is a lateral move. The 2000 Karl Rove playbook will not work for this election. Many of those closest to Trump in the White House and the campaign are not actual Republicans or even populists. The outreach of the First Step Act did not build the support from the black community that was expected, with Trump behind 80 percent to 6 percent among African American voters, according to a Wall Street Journal poll.

Trump can win. Bannon knew that the moment when he joined the 2016 campaign, and he refused to follow the schematics of Beltway insiders. Instead, Bannon sparked an insurgent approach to an outsider campaign. Even Trump himself has said that he was surprised by his November win. Bannon was not. If Trump wants to stay president, he has one of the two pieces needed for a victory this year. Pair Conway with Bannon and you will see Trump in vintage form with 270 electoral votes or more.


Kristin Tate is a libertarian author and an analyst for Young Americans for Liberty. She is a Robert Novak journalism fellow at the Fund for American Studies. Her newest book is “The Liberal Invasion of Red State America.”

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