What purpose would this serve apart from giving establishmentarians the primitive satisfaction of slapping a guy who spends his every waking hour ranting about them? If there’s any lesson to take from last year’s election, it’s that there’s literally nothing you can say about a populist hero, true or not, that will tear his fans away from him. Trump boasted early on that he could shoot someone in broad daylight and not lose his core supporters, and that’s basically been proved true. Next spring it’ll be Bannon on the trail in the role of populist-in-chief while Trump tries to play both sides from the White House. Bannon will wear Team McConnell’s disgust as a badge of honor. How do you think that’s likely to work out for him?

Team Mitch’s calculation, I guess, is that Trump’s base can’t deliver primaries on its own, as formidable as it is. Make Bannon radioactive to the rest of the party and conceivably he could become a liability for populist Senate candidates, who’ll be tarred by their association with him and will lose tight races because of it. I think they’re kidding themselves, though. Look back to Hillary’s speech last summer about the alt-right and its enthusiasm for Trump. In the end, voters vote for a candidate, not for their most obnoxious boosters. Even if the McConnell effort succeeds in branding Bannon a white nationalist, it’s an open question right now whether a populist backed by a white nationalist or an establishmentarian backed by Mitch McConnell would be at a greater disadvantage in a Republican primary. Which camp’s voters will be more strongly motivated by contempt for the other? White nationalists might at least be able to repeal ObamaCare, amirite?

More than a year ahead of the 2018 congressional contests, a ­super PAC aligned with McConnell (R-Ky.) revealed plans to attack Bannon personally as it works to protect GOP incumbents facing uphill primary fights…

The SLF tweeted a 2016 headline from the New York Daily News — “Anti-Semitic Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon not a big fan of ‘whiny brat’ Jews, ex-wife says” — with space for Tarkanian’s signature…

That attack was one of a number of swipes at Bannon that have popped up as the former White House adviser has emerged as a player on the national political scene. Holmes and others have called him a “white supremacist.”

Holmes defended his use of the term to describe Bannon in a recent interview. “If you look at his associations, the people who are ecstatic about his efforts, the long history of conduct that he has been a part of, I will let others come to their conclusions,” he said. “But this is not a guy that just burst on the scene. Let’s not act like everybody doesn’t know exactly who Steve Bannon is.”

I doubt Bannon will give another speech in the six months without mentioning right up top that McConnell’s guys are looking to destroy him. So, again: What’s the strategy here? If staining Bannon as the guru of the alt-right won’t do any damage to the candidates he’s backing, why bother with him at all? One possibility that occurs to me is that McConnell is playing the long game and setting up Bannon to take the blame next fall if the GOP gets wiped out in the midterms. Check out this gruesome generic ballot result from, of all outfits, Fox News:

That 15-point spread is the largest Fox has recorded over the past seven years. Even during the months preceding the Republican tidal wave in 2010, the GOP’s advantage never rose above 11 points. Not coincidentally, Fox also has Trump’s job approval falling to 38/57, a new low for their survey and one likely driven by a backlash to his handling of Puerto Rico’s recovery. And before you toss out Fox’s generic ballot numbers as an outlier, note that CNN *also* had a historically large advantage for Democrats on the same question recently, 54/38. In seven years of polling by CNN’s pollster, SSRS, that was the widest margin recorded on the generic ballot. Never before had Republicans fallen below 40 percent.

*If* Republicans are on track for a bloodbath next fall it’s not too early to start laying the groundwork for the all-important blame game to follow. Bannon naturally will blame McConnell and the “do nothing” Republican Congress for alienating the party’s own voters by failing to move Trump’s agenda. Team McConnell may be looking to hit the ground running in countering that: The more they attack Bannon, the more famous he’ll become as a populist guru, and the easier it’ll be later to blame the GOP’s losses on voters recoiling from “Bannonism.” McConnell may be resigned to losing the House and simply anticipating who’d make for the most useful scapegoat when it happens. That’s Bannon. In 2020, Team Mitch will point back to this year’s results as an omen of what could happen again if we keep listening to populists.

Any other theories as to why they’re doing this? Like I say, they can’t possibly believe Bannon’s going to lose rather than gain support on the right because of their efforts. Here’s Hillary declaring that the GOP is “imploding” (sort of true) and pretending like she’s sad about that (very, very false).