Bannon expands his list of Senate Republican targets for 2018

By Eric Bradner, CNN
Updated 6:17 PM ET, Sun October 8, 2017

Washington (CNN)Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is expanding his efforts to unseat sitting Senate Republicans in primaries next year.

In the two weeks since Bannon-backed former judge Roy Moore defeated Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama's Republican primary, Bannon has expanded his map of targets in the 2018 midterms and ramped up his efforts to establish a donor network to fund his slate of insurgent candidates.

Bannon has added Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, Nebraska Sen. Deb Fischer and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch to the ranks of incumbents he plans to take on.

He had already put in motion efforts to oust Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker and Nevada Sen. Dean Heller. Bannon also plans to get involved in the primaries in West Virginia and Missouri, two of Republicans' top opportunities to pick off Democratic-held seats next year.

And that's "just a partial list," a source familiar with Bannon's plans said.

"Nobody's safe," the source said.

Since departing the White House and returning Breitbart News as executive chairman, Bannon has led an insurgency against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Steve Bannon is looking for retribution after Alabama win. And he's recruiting.

Every day since Moore defeated Strange -- the Trump-endorsed incumbent -- in Alabama's Republican primary runoff ahead of a December special election, Bannon has met with major donors in an effort to build a network that would finance campaigns against sitting senators who would have heavy-duty backing from the Senate Leadership super PAC.

Bannon, who is close with the Mercer family of GOP mega-donors, was among the early backers of Kelli Ward, the conservative former state senator who has is taking on Flake in Arizona's primary. Robert Mercer's $300,000 contribution to a pro-Ward super PAC this summer was seen as an indication of anti-establishment support for her campaign even as Trump's White House attempted to recruit another candidate into the race.

Bannon met for two hours with Moore and served as a Washington sherpa of sorts for the twice-ousted former Alabama chief justice when he visited Washington last week.

Similarly, Bannon recently met with Danny Tarkanian, the Republican opposing Heller in Nevada -- another endangered incumbent facing a stiff Democratic challenge -- in next year's primary.

Source: Bannon and allies preparing primary challenges against GOP senators

He also strategized with Mississippi state Sen. Chris McDaniel about a campaign against Wicker during a recent visit near Mobile, Alabama, to campaign for Moore ahead of the September 26 primary runoff.

Bannon had also planned to be involved in an effort to unseat Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker -- but that ceased to matter once Corker announced his plans to retire last week. Rep. Marsha Blackburn launched a campaign for that seat that echoed much of Bannon's anti-establishment fury.

Perhaps causing the GOP establishment the most angst would be Bannon's involvement in Missouri, where Vice President Mike Pence and McConnell-aligned forces see state Attorney General Josh Hawley as a strong challenger against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.