Steve Bannon has begun meeting with Republican donors at their request, as party financiers in the wake of the Alabama special election attempt to learn what President Trump's former chief strategist has planned for 2018.
Some GOP bundlers, in Washington this week for a Republican National Committee fundraiser, sought meetings with Bannon, the executive chairman of Breitbart News, to forge relationships and better understand his plans to target Republican incumbents in 2018 primaries.
Roy Moore, Bannon's candidate in the Alabama GOP primary runoff, defeated appointed Sen. Luther Strange, who had the support of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. It was a major embarrassment for McConnell, and Bannon said he plans to replicate the effort in GOP primaries next year to weaken the majority leader and reshape the party in Trump's populist image.
"It seems like McConnell's star is fading and Bannon's is rising. I wanted to break bread with the guy and figure out his thinking," said Dan Eberhart, a Republican donor from Phoenix who was scheduled to meet with Bannon on Wednesday.
Republican donors are furious with Senate Republicans — many with McConnell specifically. They're disappointed with the outcome in Alabama and angry that the Senate hasn't passed legislation to repeal and replace Obamacare.
That has some donors, who usually circulate in establishment circles, taking the measure of Bannon to prepare for the upheaval that many party insiders believe is coming in next year's primaries — especially if Republicans fumble tax reform.
One Republican donor who has already met with Bannon said that he communicated his view that money isn't as important in elections as it used to be.
The former White House chief strategist and CEO Of Trump's presidential campaign believes he could help drive Republican challenger candidates to victory next year with the technological tools now available to campaigns.
If Republican donors remain unhappy with McConnell and the party's senate campaign arm struggles for donations as a result, incumbent Republicans could suffer a loss of resources, possibly empowering Bannon in the primary campaigns he chooses to get involved in.
In the Tennessee GOP primary in the race to succeed retiring Republican Sen. Bob Corker, Bannon likes Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., a Republican source who spoke with him said. Bannon did not respond to a Tuesday afternoon email requesting comment.
"I have had a lot of donors not wanting to give to national party," a Republican fundraising consultant said, on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly. "They are very upset that nothing is getting done in D.C. It goes both ways with that though. Some are mad at the far right Senators/Freedom caucus. Others are mad at McConnell. Overall, no donors are happy. If they are giving, they are giving to help the specific person calling, not the party."