Bannon: Don't sleep on Sanders in November duel of disruptors

May see Michelle O or Hillary late bid to save D's from Bernie, says ex-Trump guru

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Steve Bannon
Ex-Trump political guru Steve Bannon
(Stefano Montesi, Getty Images)
Last Updated:
March 1, 2020 - 7:57pm

Steve Bannon, chief executive of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and former White House strategist, has a warning for those who think it will be a godsend for President Trump to take on democratic socialist Bernie Sanders in a potential general election contest.

“No one should get cocky about this,” Bannon said during an extensive podcast interview on The Pod’s Honest Truth With David Brody. “There’s more tears shed for answered prayers than for unanswered.”

Of course, a Sanders nomination is by no means a foregone conclusion. The data shows that, at this point at least, he may fall short of a majority of delegates before the Democratic National Convention convenes in July. And if so…

“Michelle Obama could come in at the last second at the convention for a salvation of the Democratic Party,” Bannon said. “I think the Democrats will turn to anybody that thinks they can save their party.”

Even the 2016 Democratic nominee for president?

“Don't believe that Hillary Clinton's not in the wing,” Bannon states emphatically. “Hillary Clinton is waiting, she's getting the makeup on, getting the hair ready.”

Bernie Sanders doesn’t plan for any of that to be necessary. He’s poised to do well on Super Tuesday, when 1,617 delegates are at stake, nearly one-third of all delegates.

Looking ahead to a possible general election race, a new Quinnipiac University poll shows the democratic socialist narrowly leading Trump in two key Rust Belt states, Pennsylvania and Michigan.

“Bernie has unique appeal with working-class voters,” Sanders pollster Ben Tulchin recently told the Washington Post. “He can be more effective in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. If we turn just those three states around, we win the White House.”

But there are warning signals flashing for Sanders.

A new Rasmussen Reports survey shows Sanders trailing President Trump head-to-head by seven points nationally.

More significantly, the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia has just come out with its first view of what an electoral map would look like in a Trump-Sanders matchup. It shows Trump with a hypothetical electoral college lead of 260-248, with 30 electoral votes deemed a tossup.

“In our view, we think a Sanders nomination would tilt the election more toward Trump, to the point where the ratings would reflect him as something of a favorite,” according to the authors of the report.

As with most elections, the result will be determined by turnout. “This is going to be a mobilization election,” said Bannon. “So far at least, Bernie has proven to be good at it. Bernie's got the ability to mobilize people.”

But is it enough to beat an incumbent president? “I think as the American people get to know him more, and particularly whether this guy is ready to be commander-in-chief, I think we could be in pretty good shape.”

Sanders, like Trump, has an appeal to white middle-class voters. As a matter of fact, 12% of Bernie supporters in 2016 ended up voting for Trump in the general election. Bannon, who grew up in a working-class Irish Catholic family, is firmly convinced that Trump’s success, and to a certain extent Sanders’ too, is rooted in these voters who represent an American fabric full of grit, toughness, family, and faith.

“One of the great awakenings we're having is working-class people sitting there going, ‘Hey!’ and now starting to understand how the system works,” said Bannon. “I pay all the taxes, and my kids go fight all the wars, and I think that we ought to have representatives that represent my voice ... 

"What Donald Trump did for the first time is gave the ‘deplorables’ a voice in the room — and the biggest voice — and that's been the most fundamental change in this country.”

Bannon, who has lent his support to many nationalist populist conservative political movements worldwide, sees deplorables finding their voices across the globe. “That's why you had Brexit, and that's why you just had this big revolt that led to Boris Johnson and led to the demise of the Labour Party,” he said.

Even in China, especially in working-class cities like Wuhan, says Bannon, deplorables are stirring with anger against the communist regime “gangsters” who monopolize the nation’s political life.

“They have a name for the common man there,” Bannon said. “They call them ‘old hundred names’ because it's basically one hundred last names. ‘Old hundred names’ [are] the ‘deplorables.’ They’re the ‘Chinese deplorables.’ They're just a working class that for thousands of years have always gotten the short end of the stick.”

Back here in America, Donald Trump tapped into that same type of sentiment. Sanders has struck a chord too.

“That’s why you've had this kind of revolt here in the United States,” Bannon explained. “Working-class and middle-class people understand that a country is more than an economy. They understand that the country is more than just material things. That this country stands for something.”

While Sanders and Trump are tapping into some of these same disgruntled voters, their policy agendas couldn’t be more different. Bannon believes Trump’s record of results will ultimately win the day.

“The facts are on our side,” he said. “I do think President Trump's going to win. I think if properly managed, it could be a big victory.”

But, again, warns Bannon, “It's all about who shows up on Election Day.” And while the love-him-or-hate-him Trump is sure to fire up his base to vote to reelect him in November, he’s equally likely to turn out his opponent’s base to stop him.

“The progressive left understand, between what he's done in the courts and his deconstruction of the administrative state, that he is going to be in their personal lives 10, 20, 30 years from now,” said Bannon. “Donald Trump, ‘Orange Man Bad.’ That is a Kafkaesque nightmare for these people.”