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Steve Bannon's Republican critics are gleefully dunking on him for Roy Moore's shocking loss

“Not every man can make an Alabama Senate race close, but Steve Bannon can.”

Steve Bannon, back in March of this year.
Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty
Andrew Prokop is a senior politics correspondent at Vox, covering the White House, elections, and political scandals and investigations. He’s worked at Vox since the site’s launch in 2014, and before that, he worked as a research assistant at the New Yorker’s Washington, DC, bureau.

Doug Jones’s shocking victory in Alabama’s Senate special election is a tremendous humiliation for former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who had made Moore’s candidacy the centerpiece of his effort to reshape the Republican Party.

And Bannon’s enemies — Republican congressional leaders and their allies, and conservatives who’ve long been skeptical of President Donald Trump — are wasting no time in blaming him for it.

It started even before the results came in, with this tweet from Josh Holmes, a former chief of staff to Mitch McConnell (whom Bannon has said he wants to depose):

Then when things started to look tight, National Review’s David French added this:

And once the result was clear, other Republican consultants and media figures chimed in:

And then, an outside group aligned with McConnell released a statement:

Obviously, the schadenfreude is strong here.

Why Bannon is being blamed for Doug Jones’s win

The bad blood here dates back to the primary. After the previous occupant of this seat, Jeff Sessions, was confirmed as Trump’s attorney general, Alabama’s governor appointed the state’s attorney general, Luther Strange, to replace him.

The problem was that Strange was dogged by questions about his appointment, since he had previously been investigating the governor who appointed him. So once a special election was scheduled for this year, Strange faced two potentially strong primary challengers. One was Moore, a former Alabama Supreme Court chief justice who had won statewide in the state before and was well-liked by many evangelical activists there. The other was Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), a conservative member of the Freedom Caucus.

Most Republican establishment figures — particularly McConnell — chose to endorse Strange. And Trump decided to do so too. But Bannon, who had been pushed out of his role in Trump’s White House in August, chose a different path. He perceived Moore’s electoral strength (he led polls of the primary all along) and saw an opportunity to make mischief with the GOP establishment he so loathed. So he defied both McConnell and Trump by endorsing Moore. And then Moore won the primary.

To some extent, Bannon was getting in front of a parade here. He was seeking to take credit for a Moore victory he already expected, to make himself appear like a political mastermind and enhance his influence in the GOP.

But this clever plan blew up in his face after Moore was accused of sexually assaulting two teenage girls.

Now, Bannon obviously never could have predicted that that specifically would happen. McConnell’s allies, though, had correctly sounded the alarm about Moore in advance, warning that he’d be a weak candidate and, if nominated, he could blow what should have been an easy election in a deeply conservative state.

Even after the accusations, Bannon stood by Moore, and downright worked to keep his candidacy alive ... because surely a Republican could never lose a Senate election in Alabama, right? Right?

But that’s exactly what ended up happening — and now Bannon’s critics are using it to discredit him.

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