Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said Monday that he wishes Steve Bannon, former White House chief strategist and current chairman of Breitbart News, would focus on ousting Democrats instead of a group of incumbent Republican senators he is focusing on ahead of the 2018 midterm elections.
"I wish they would focus on Democrats instead of Republicans," said Cornyn, the No. 2 Senate Republican, when asked by reporters about Bannon's push to oust the likes of Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.
He also called on President Trump and his allies to focus their attention away from Republicans he has sparred with recently, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., who said in a statement Monday that he has not decided whether or not to run for re-election in 2018. Cornyn said he has not spoken with Corker yet about his 2018 plans.
"I think the president's going to need as many friendly faces around here as he can in order to get things done," Cornyn said. "I realize bipartisanship is good, but he shouldn't mistake a smile for support when it really counts, so I think it would be well advised to focus on growing the number of Republicans than diminishing it."
Bannon is also targeting Sens. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Luther Strange, R-Ala., who faces off with Roy Moore in a runoff to complete Attorney General Jeff Sessions' term on Sept. 26. Cornyn has experience dealing with Republican primaries after chairing the National Republican Senatorial Committee in 2010 and 2012 when a group of conservative challengers emerged from primaries, only to lose in general election contests that were winnable for Republicans.
"I vaguely remember that," Cornyn quipped. "It didn't turn out well."
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D. echoed Cornyn's remarks, saying Bannon's moves are "not particularly productive" as Republicans look to maintain their Senate majority next fall.
"Well it does [make it harder]," Thune said. "It's not particularly productive ... We have to stay focused on the task at hand. That's getting some results for the American people and seeing what we can do to gain seats."
David M. Drucker contributed to this report.