Trump Heading To Alabama For Sen. Strange, Pitting Him Against Bannon

President Donald Trump talks with Cleveland Clinic President and CEO Toby Cosgrove during a meeting with business leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, in Washington. From left are, Cosgrove, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, Trump, and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Evan Vucci/AP
Views

President Trump is heading to Alabama for a last-minute campaign rally for appointed Sen. Luther Strange (R-AL), a move that sets off a very public split with former top adviser Steve Bannon.

Trump announced over the weekend that he’ll stump for Strange on Saturday, just days before his primary runoff election against former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore (R), a controversial religious conservative who has the support of Bannon and many of Trump’s other right-wing allies.

Trump endorsed Strange early in the primary, but had done nothing to help him since he and Moore made the runoff — his only public comments since then on the race were praising both candidates in a single tweet after the election. That had establishment conservatives nervous that he’d sit things out rather than back Strange, with some even worrying about him switching his endorsement to the more rabble-rousing Moore.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has spent heavily for Strange in the race, and can now breathe a sigh of relief that Trump will be a help and not a hindrance to him in the primary’s closing days. Bannon, on the other hand, had seemingly been expecting Trump to stay out of the race. He’s gone all-in for Moore, setting up the contest as the first battle in his planned primary war against McConnell and the GOP establishment.

Strange has trailed every public poll of the race, but has been within striking distance in some surveys. Trump remains immensely popular in Alabama, especially in GOP circles, and a full-throated endorsement on the eve of the primary could make a big difference in a close race.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cameron Joseph is Talking Points Memo's senior political correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He covers Capitol Hill, the White House and the permanent campaign. Previous publications include the New York Daily News, Mashable, The Hill and National Journal. He grew up near Chicago and is an irrationally passionate Cubs fan.
LIKE US ON FACEBOOK