One of the most interesting phenomena in the Trump White House of the past three or so months is the way in which Trump has not only set about to lock in the base voters that brought him to the White House but the way he’s jettisoned a lot of the people that helped put him there.
Beyond the early casualties like Mike Flynn, Steve Bannon has been shunted aside, as it became obvious that his operating style was doing more damage than good to Trump.
This dichotomy of interests is becoming more obvious now that Trump is increasingly reliant on Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan for legislative success and for judicial appointments while Bannon desperately needs to collect some moldering, mildewed moderate scalps to burnish his image and business plan.
Now Trump’s biggest financial backers have begun a $100 million fundraising drive to support tax reform just as Bannon has started his own fundraising for a completely different mission:
President Donald Trump’s super PAC is drawing up plans to spend $100 million on an all-out push to sell tax reform and elect pro-Trump Republicans in 2018.
The group, dubbed America First Action, is expected to host a fundraiser in the coming months that will be attended by Vice President Mike Pence and is in talks with the administration to get Trump to headline an event. It has tapped oil and gas mogul Harold Hamm, a Trump ally whose net worth exceeds $11 billion, to boost its fundraising campaign. And it is recruiting major Republican Party donors across the country.
Last week, America First officials met with top Trump advisers at the White House to brief them on a multimillion dollar campaign to promote tax reform and discuss how the legislative battle is likely to play out.
The $100 million target won’t necessarily be easy to reach. America First will be competing for cash with the Steve Bannon-backed Great America PAC, which is getting behind primary challenges against Republican senators and making its own pitch to conservative contributors.
Top officials with the super PAC used last week’s meeting to try and assert its standing as the primary pro-Trump outside group, and to clear up any confusion about which organization to give to. The answer hasn’t been clear to some givers, as they’ve watched Bannon grab headlines with his push to take out GOP incumbents and undermine Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Bannon recently installed one of his top aides at Great America PAC.
During the meeting, Walsh highlighted the credentials of America First strategists and their close ties to Trump. They include Brad Parscale and Corey Lewandowski, both of whom played key roles on the Trump campaign.
To drive the point home, Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., who was present for the affair, announced that he had recently cut a check to America First. “This is the only group that I’m giving to,” he said.
Officials with America First and Great America PAC insist the idea of competition between the two groups is overblown. They say they keep in touch and plan to coordinate some of their activities leading up to the midterms.
But their approaches are distinctly different. While America First is largely focused on backing Republicans who support the president’s agenda, Great America PAC is devoting itself to targeting GOP incumbents. It is even preparing to oppose several White House allies, including Sens. Deb Fischer of Nebraska and John Barrasso of Wyoming.
If you believe that there are good relations between a PAC that is out to demolish a couple of dependable Trump senators and Trump’s PAC, I have a bridge to sell you.
Bannon is too closely associated with Trump for anyone to believe that Trump isn’t behind the primarying of senators if Bannon goes through with his scheme. In a year where a modest increase to the Senate majority is possible, attacking people like Fischer and Barrasso is nuts.
If Trump, Jr., can be taken at his word, then Bannon is not going to be able to raise enough money to have an impact on any election. He might be able to claim he did through Breitbart News, but his real impact will be nil.
If Trump and his advisors are trying to play both ends against the middle – that is, help Bannon primary incumbents while pretending not to – they are going to be shocked at how fast that story falls apart and how Trump becomes a lame duck halfway into his first term.