Steve Bannon finally has a scalp. After helping defeat Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., Breitbart has been elevated overnight from a persistent annoyance to an existential threat, a haunting apparition which, from now on, will ruin the dreams of Mitch McConnell with visions of defeated incumbents, young Republicans primaried before their time.
His alt-right killing machine has always relished savage war on the establishment, keeping the blood feud. Alive and out of the White House now, Bannon seeks no peace offering, no truce, accepting no settlement, no price. At least that's the brand the good folks at Breitbart would like to cultivate for their company. A monster? Absolutely. A discerning political punisher? Not at all.
After savaging former Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange as a lobbyist and a Washington insider during that state's Republican run-off, Breitbart has all but endorsed current West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey for Senate—another lobbyist and a Washington insider.
Strange and Morrisey are cut from the same cloth. They're even friends. As recently as August when Breitbart was first starting to train its guns at the Alabama incumbent, Morrisey was endorsing Strange, publicly calling him "a good man and conservative" and tweeting that "we'll drain the swamp in DC." They would've made quite the pair.
Like Strange, Morrissey has a record as a hard-nosed prosecutor, a legal brawler who has fought and won in the courts against the Obama administration. They challenged that Democrat president together, suing the federal government over Obama's transgender directive and war on coal.
Like Strange, Morrissey worked as a lobbyist before that. They pounded the D.C. pavement at the same time -- Morrissey as a partner at Sidley, Austin et al; Strange at Bradly, Arant et al. Both would later skip town and return to their home states to pursue a political career.
Unlike Strange, Morrissey never had the bad luck to receive the endorsement of McConnell. And as Bannon confidant and British parliamentarian Nigel Farage explained to me in Alabama, picking and choosing isn't about policy. It's about disposition and association now.
"All I can tell you is that all those people in the Conservative Party, who came from establishment backgrounds, and who after Brexit, said they were converts," Farage says likening the political situations of the two English-speaking countries, they are "the ones now who are trying to pull the rug out from under us."
So while the pair look almost exactly the same on paper, Breitbart is backing Morrissey as "the conservative candidate" in the West Virginia Republican primary against Rep. Evan Jenkins, who the publication labels "McConnell's hand-picked choice."
"This race could set up another major flashpoint in the same vein as what just happened down in Alabama, where McConnell and his forces wasted dozens of millions of dollars backing failed soon-to-be-former Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL) over conservative Judge Roy Moore," writes Breitbart's Matt Boyle, whose boss played no insignificant role in that victory, endorsing, writing, and rallying on Moore's behalf. (Granted, and as Boyle notes, Jenkins used to be a Democrat. But then again, so did Donald Trump).
But what was verboten in Alabama is suddenly acceptable in West Virginia. Less than 48 hours after attacking Strange, a man he dubbed earlier as a member of the "corporatist—donor—K-Street—lobbyist—influence-peddler—politician class," Bannon offered slobbering praise.
"We love you, we love you on the show," Bannon told Morrisey on Sirius XM radio. After singing the praises of the authentic attorney general, Bannon concluded that the "people admire you so much in West Virginia." And as an aside, Morrissey is authentic (I once watched him bring a convention hall of grizzled miners to a standing ovation while discussing his legal fight against the Clean Power Plan). But that's beside the point.
Never mind that Strange voted consistently with the president. Also forget that Strange fought for another vote on Obamacare when other senators wanted to call it quits. And finally, disregard all those Breitbart headlines slamming "Lobbyist Luther Strange." Bannon and company never cared about any of that.
For better or worse, Bannon hated McConnell. Principles and facts be damned. The race was a blood feud from the beginning. Lucky for Morrisey, he's not on the wrong side (for now).
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.