Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon, formerly chief strategist for President Donald Trump, joined SiriusXM hosts Joel Pollak and Rebecca Mansour to look back at the 2016 presidential campaign and forward at how themes from that campaign continue to resonate in crucial political contests like the Virginia gubernatorial election.
On the one-year anniversary of the Trump campaign’s “Super Sunday” sweep through seven campaign events in a single day, Bannon reflected on the strategy employed to overcome double-digit polling deficits against Hillary Clinton in the battleground states, with only seven weeks to go before the first debate when Bannon left Breitbart News to join the campaign.
“We didn’t have a lot of organization, no money,” he recalled.
“It turned out by Trump going back to this populist-nationalist message, we were actually within the margin of error to two-up on the morning of the debates,” he said. “We knew the debates were going to be very different because she’s a great debater. Trump had never really had one-on-one debates like he was going to have in the presidential run, and so we figured we’d call audibles.”
“When we came to the debates, we knew it was three-and-a-half weeks of a mad sprint, and we were going to build momentum,” he said, putting Super Sunday into the context of that dash for the finish line.
Running that race demonstrated the vast gulf between the Republican establishment and grassroots voters to Bannon.
“On Friday, we get into a huge fight with some of the establishment guys in Wisconsin that said, ‘Hey, you’re going to lose Wisconsin, you’re three points down, five points down. It’s not close. We want to cancel.’ We had this huge fight, and it just turned out we weren’t going to be able to do it, they didn’t want to do it. So we said, ‘Let’s do Minnesota.’ Trump had literally been all over me to do Minnesota from the beginning. We had never really made a stop. We had done one fundraiser but no stops,” he said.
“We went to Minnesota. Joel, you saw how crazy it was there,” he reminisced with Pollak, who was embedded with the Trump campaign as a reporter. “Trump really talked about the Somalia immigration issue. It’s the third rail in Minnesota politics, but it resonated. We lost Minnesota two days later by one point. If we’d have spent more time there, I think we could have won it.”
“It was an incredible day,” he said of Super Sunday. “It was probably the most intense day – although Monday was great – we didn’t get home until five in the morning on Tuesday, Election Day. I’ve got to tell you, that Sunday is a very special day. I think it’s one of the biggest days in American political history.”
Bannon said the key issue of the Trump campaign and presidency is national sovereignty, as reflected in issues ranging from immigration and crime to American involvement in foreign wars. He saw sovereignty as a major issue in the closely watched Virginia gubernatorial race, where Republican Ed Gillespie is running very closely against Democrat Ralph Northam.
“You had a guy like Gillespie who was essentially eight, ten points down four weeks ago, when the Gillespie campaign starts to really embrace the Trump agenda, and part of that is sanctuary cities – deporting guys like these gangs, MS-13 – to really get back and talk about our sovereignty when it deals with illegal immigration and legal immigration. And all of a sudden, Gillespie caught fire because he’s embracing Trumpism.”
He added praise for the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Virginia, Jill Holtzman Vogel.
“She is just fantastic. She reminds me quite frankly, RAM, of a Sarah Palin,” he said to Mansour, a former speechwriter for former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. “She’s just a fire-breathing populist. It just gets people worked up. I think you’re seeing once again that this is a massive issue. It’s the central issue of our time, the sovereignty of our country.”
“The hobbits, the working-class people, are not going to let the establishment take it away from them. If it has to be Judge Moore in Alabama, or if it has to be Gillespie – who is, quite frankly, kind of an establishment guy, but he’s got a very anti-establishment lieutenant governor, and he’s really embraced the Trump agenda here in the last four weeks. And the Washington Post is reporting tonight he may be up one or two points. This thing is coming down to a photo finish,” he said.
At the same time Gillespie surged by embracing these issues, Bannon saw Northam stumbling because of strife and ideological confusion in the Democratic Party. “Northam is not a radical. He’s kind of a center-left Democrat. But he can’t even answer the question about sanctuary cities without sounding like an idiot,” he said.
Mansour quoted Bannon’s warning against Republican strife and ideological confusion – that if the coming debate over the DACA program ends with an amnesty deal for illegal aliens, Republicans will “lose the House, especially, and once they lose the House, Nancy Pelosi is going to go for impeachment.”
“I think it’s pretty straightforward,” said Bannon. “If you look in Virginia, you see the grassroots are fired up. They’re coming out now to embrace the Trump agenda as Gillespie has now articulated it. Well, if the grassroots show up, we win. Joel just talked about this fervor that went around these seven stops on Super Sunday in 2016 that really catapulted Trump to the White House. The grassroots are out there. People come to Minnesota literally to an airplane hangar, 20,000 people on a very cold Sunday when pro football is on, to see Trump. Three thousand inside the hangar kind of warm, 17,000 freezing out on the sides. They’ll do that because the grassroots, the hobbits, they want to take their country back. They don’t want to lose their country.”
“But for some reason, the establishment just keeps coming. If you come and force amnesty down people’s throats, you’re going to break the enthusiasm of people. They’re not going to show up. These 23 swing districts are going to turn out to be 50 House seats lost. You’re going to turn it over to Nancy Pelosi, and I don’t care what she says, she’s going to do what Tom Steyer is putting millions of dollars into this campaign to impeach Donald Trump. They’re going to try to impeach him,” Bannon warned.
Pollak proposed that excesses of rhetoric against Gillespie, notably including the infamous campaign ad that purported to show a Gillespie supporter attempting to mow down minority children with a pickup truck, created a huge backlash.
Bannon agreed, noting that sanctuary cities are now a major issue – possibly the defining issue – in the Virginia race but were off the radar screen just a few weeks ago. “This ad was so over the top, it shows some guy, I guess, in a pickup truck with a Confederate battle flag and a Gillespie thing running over people. It was just so over the top, and people were turned off, the people in the center,” he said.
Bannon went on to describe Pollak’s home state of California as a “nullification state” for its sanctuary rules, which effectively neutralize U.S. immigration law.
“You see the extreme measures that people are going to, to really divide the country. I think Virginia has shown that if you get back to the issues of sovereignty, get back to the issues of sanctuary cities, case law, illegal aliens, that you can put a winning coalition together,” he said.
“I think that whether Gillespie wins on Tuesday or not, he certainly closed an eight-and-a-half or nine-point gap in three-and-a-half or four weeks, based upon these issues. I think those Trump issues, those kind of populist-nationalist issues, are winners. I think we can win in 2018 if you just stick with the program and don’t try to force amnesty down people’s throats,” he advised.
Bannon chuckled at Pollak’s account of Democratic National Committee chair Tom Perez’s claim that the noxious anti-Gillespie ad was actually Bannon’s fault because he had endorsed Gillespie and thus brought “fearmongering” into the campaign.
“I’ll take Perez’s compliment,” he said. “There’s only one downside of Gillespie winning on Tuesday, and that’s probably the Democrats will let Perez go at the DNC. I think he’s the gift that keeps on giving.”
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