To Rove, this was classic Bannon-as-Bolshevik stuff. “Well,” Rove said, “he’s a Leninist, and like all good Leninists he always puts his attacks in vivid terms. So what do you do if you’re a Leninist? Go back to Saul Alinsky’s ‘Rules for Radicals’ . . . Pick a highly visible target and personalize it.” In 2016, Rove noted, the target was the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, but the Bannon-backed primary candidate who challenged Ryan got only fifteen per cent of the vote. Now he’s fixating on Rove and McConnell instead. “Bannon says, ‘Look, I’m taking your donors, Mitch McConnell. ’ Well, we’ve had our best non-election fund-raising year for American Crossroads/Senate Leadership Fund ever, closing in on forty per cent either banked or pledged for our 2018 budget,” Rove said. “I don’t see hordes of our donors defecting to Bannon or his candidates.” And, indeed, just this week came news that Sheldon Adelson, another casino magnate and Republican mega-donor, had decided to stick with Rove and McConnell despite a recent meeting with Bannon.
Yet Bannon, clearly, has gotten under Rove’s skin. Rove ticked off a list of candidates whom he said showed Bannon’s amazing “bad judgment” and constituted what, to his mind, amounts to a parade of horribles: Grimm, that “convicted felon” from New York; the “despicable” Tom Tancredo for governor in Colorado; the “hapless” Danny Tarkanian, a five-time failed candidate running against Senator Dean Heller in Nevada. “These are the people he’s backing and thinks can both win and then govern?”