Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon joined SiriusXM hosts Alex Marlow and Raheem Kassam on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily to look back at the 2016 election, review the first year of the Trump presidency, and analyze the results of the Virginia election.
Bannon said the lesson from Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie’s defeat on Tuesday night is that “if you’re going to win, you’ve got to embrace the entire Trump agenda, and you’ve got to do it early, and you’ve got to be dedicated to it.”
“You can’t phone it in,” he said. “You’ve got to do rallies. You’ve got to get the president out with you. You’ve got to go all-in on this. I just think campaigning with people like President Bush and Marco Rubio during these type of economic times sends the wrong signal. I think Gillespie’s campaign had ample opportunity to get Corey Stewart, get other people involved.”
“Things were done on the margin,” he said. “People worked very hard, I know the Lt. Governor, I thought Jill Vogel did a great job, but it didn’t get pulled off. I think the lessons are if people want to continue to drive this agenda, and continue to win, we’ve got to get very focused on executing the Trump agenda and then making sure we can sell it.”
“We did lose Virginia by five points during the campaign,” he recalled. “I actually thought Virginia was going to be too tough a reach. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time there, even though that’s my native state. But I was actually surprised by the five-point loss. I thought we would lose Virginia by two or three.”
“We lost it by more because of the heavy, heavy turnout in the northern Virginia suburbs, which really are a part of Washington, DC,” he explained. “When you look at Virginia today, really northern Virginia is a suburb of Washington. It has virtually all federal employees, or consultants, or media types, or companies tied to the federal government.”
Bannon said Virginia is “not a purple state, it’s a blue state.”
“Seven of the nine richest counties in the United States ring Washington, DC,” he pointed out. “I think three of those counties, or four of those counties, are in northern Virginia, three of them are in Maryland. It’s become just like the District of Columbia. It’s heavily blue. It’s made up of basically federal bureaucrats and companies, consultants, lobbyists, etc. tied to the federal budget. It’s been increasingly tough for Republicans to really get a foothold there. What you really hope to do is not to have a big turnout.”
“This is a wake-up call. People have to understand that the Democrats did a very good job of getting the vote out. You’ve got to give the devil their due, and when we think about ‘18, you’ve got to get very focused,” he advised.
“I try to, in every speech I give, tell people November 8th was a day that’s a high holy day for us,” Bannon said. “I also say you know, you’re going to have to fight every day for this thing. We’re not going to be able to wave a magic wand and pat you on the head and say it’s all better. Every day you’re going to have to fight for this if you want to be able to take your country back.”
“Last night was a big wake-up call for folks that say hey, if you want to make sure we can execute on the Trump agenda and continue to have it as part of our public policy, you’re going to have to fight for this. That means you’re going to have to get out, you’re going to have to work the phones, you’re going to have to go through the neighborhood, ring the doorbells, and I think principally get candidates unlike Gillespie who really believe this in the marrow of their bones, and can convince people that it’s something they believe in, and then can sell it.”
Bannon postulated that candidate authenticity is especially important in the digital age when every statement is monitored and remembered.
“You need authenticity of candidate. You need big, actionable ideas. And you need a really empowered, turned-out, aggressive grassroots movement, coupled with state-of-the-art digital technology so you can target,” he said.
Bannon said Gillespie is a “nice enough guy,” but “he is a Bush guy.”
“He decided to have President Bush come and campaign with him in Virginia,” he noted. “There’s just not enough of those Establishment types left to make a significant difference. You’ve got to bring out the Trump voters, and you’ve got to bring them out in a way that they’re enthusiastic in getting other Trump voters out. I think it’s incumbent upon people. You know, we won in a coalition. That’s one of the big lessons of Eight, is that we won in a coalition. That coalition has to stick together. But the key thing is we won in a coalition but we were selling the Trump program. I think that’s a lesson that hopefully candidates throughout the country learn.”
Bannon recalled feeling confident on Election Day 2016, having offered then-candidate Donald Trump “metaphysical certitude” he would win, provided he stuck to “the playbook of this populist-nationalist conservative message.” He advised contrasting Hillary Clinton as “the tribune of a corrupt and incompetent status quo” and the “permanent political class.”
With the Republican establishment and Republican National Committee looking to bail on Trump and focus on preserving their House majority, Bannon remembered calling then-RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and quickly organizing an effective political coalition against Hillary Clinton.
“I never really doubted,” Bannon said. “I saw the numbers drop, I saw Trump catching her, because he’s just a great candidate. He connected with people. He had a great message. He had tremendous energy. He came across as a Commander-in-Chief. I could see at these rallies that he was galvanizing people. When you looked at the math and you looked at the targeting, things were coming back to us, particularly in states where Republicans had not won in living memory.”
He recalled telling Trump, “You have a 100 percent chance if you just focus on what the people are focused on, not this kind of nonsense about your locker-room talk.”
“We came up with the idea, with a couple of people, to bring the women that Bill Clinton had been a sexual predator against, and also the rape victim that Hillary Clinton had represented the rapist, to the debate,” he said, sensing a strong close for the Trump campaign even though polls still insisted he was lagging behind.
“I didn’t think they really had a great counter-argument,” he said of the Clinton campaign. “I didn’t think they had gone to the places you have to go to galvanize support on the Democratic side.”
Bannon said his greatest moment of shock was “when the first exit ballots came in, the first exit polls.”
“It was pretty shocking because we were losing everywhere,” he recalled. “I think we were basically tied in Ohio, and I think close in Iowa, but we were getting crushed everywhere. We quickly ascertained they were not accurate. So throughout the night, we just followed the data.”
He said his confidence returned on Election Night with news of victory in Florida: “When we knew we had won Florida, I felt very confident that we were going to take the whole thing. Other areas were trending for us, particularly places like North Carolina and Pennsylvania and others.”
“This whole thing with Clinton and her speech, and all this stuff with Podesta – I just thought from the very beginning that those guys were overrated. I just didn’t think they had a message for her. I never thought she articulated why she should be president, what she was going to do with the country. When somebody asked me, ‘Did you watch her concession speech?’ – I don’t even remember when she gave it, because after we won I had literally zero interest, I had less than zero interest with anything that had to do with the campaign, and I had less than less than zero interest after we beat them,” he said.
Bannon addressed the notion of demographic changes putting states like Virginia out of Republican reach. “We should not give up the minority areas. We should not give up the Hispanic areas. We should not give up the black middle class and working class areas,” he said.
“Economic nationalism is – really, they’ll be the biggest beneficiaries,” he explained. “Remember, the people that are most abused by the global elites are the black and Hispanic working class, and then the minority middle class. It’s outrageous. But you need people that really believe this message to the marrow of their bones, I think, to be able to sell it to the people on the hustings during these campaigns. You just can’t kind of phone it in.”
“We’re celebrating the one-year anniversary on the Eighth of this great accomplishment we had last year. Remember, we had a candidate in Donald Trump that believed it to the marrow of his bones because he’s really the embodiment of the Trump movement,” he said.
“Remember, the powerful thing about Trump is that he’s had these beliefs and articulated these beliefs over 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 years, so it wasn’t like you had to program him. In fact, all we did when I took over was just make sure the message was a little more coherent and presented every day, and hammered every day. Compare and contrast that to her representation of the status quo that’s both corrupt and incompetent,” he said, measuring Trump’s campaign against Clinton’s.
“He knew the topic, knew the material, so well because it’s his belief system,” Bannon said of Trump. “That’s what you need. I think running Establishment candidates is going to be very tough. If you do run Establishment candidates, if Establishment candidates win these primaries, people still have to back them. Breitbart, we had a lot of articles that laid out what the case was here. We had Jill on a number of times. We’re not about to quit just because an Establishment candidate wins in a primary. People just can’t quit. They can’t go home. If you’re going to do that, you’re going to get crushed every time.”
“Now hopefully the insurgent candidates and the Trump candidates win at primaries and then everyone gets in back of them. But people can’t forget the key lesson of 2016 is we won in a coalition,” he repeated. “Reince Priebus and I, Reince was riding shotgun with it just like Jared and others at the campaign – Dave Bossie, Kellyanne Conway. But we had definitely the Republican Establishment working with us.”
“If we’re going to win in the future, you are going to have to do it in some kind of partnership or combination with the Republican Establishment, at least part of it. I think that’s what’s incumbent upon being able to market this message out on the hustings and these campaigns, to make sure people really understand. I just don’t think Gillespie did a terrific job of being able to explain exactly what he was running for,” he said.
Bannon said he has always warned “it will be very hard to take your country back.”
“The Breitbart Radio audience knows this. It’s an everyday struggle. One year to the date, a state that we lost by five points with Donald Trump at the head of the ticket, on a state that even I felt it was not in my gunsights – it was something I thought we could win because I am a Virginian and I know the state pretty well, but I thought we’d come within a couple of points, it might be one of those ones that would surprise you on Election Night like a Minnesota, where we came within one. Think about it: we were much closer in Minnesota than we were in Virginia. That’s just a lesson of demographics and voter patterns,” he reckoned.
“It shows you a year afterward you’re going to have to redouble your efforts. It’s just not going to be handed to you. Every day it’s going to be a struggle. Look at the struggle we’ve had to execute the Trump agenda on Capitol Hill. I mean, it’s been a huge struggle. It’s one of the reasons I left the White House, remember, was to take on the Republican Establishment. We have to fight this every day. If you think it’s going to be given to you, you might as well quit now, because it’s not going to be given to you. You’re going to have to fight,” Bannon declared.
“And guess what? A year from now, when we’re on this show talking about the ‘18 election, if we’re going to be victorious it’s going to be one simple thing: we outworked the other side. I think that shows you in Virginia, and you’ve got to tip your hat to the Democrats, it looks like on voter turnout they turned out their voters. If you turn out your voters you’re going to win,” he judged.
“That might be an enthusiasm gap on the Republican side. The candidate might not really have been a Trump guy. Maybe they were not that organized. Maybe the RNC wasn’t that good this time. Who knows? I’m sure in the autopsy they do on this, we’ll find out some more as we get into the data. But it’s evident the other side turned out their voters for their candidate. It is a blue state. We’re going to have to win some blue states in the future,” Bannon mused.
“I think it’s a day we should celebrate. The message is great. Trump, I think people couldn’t be prouder of how he’s handled – I think he’s done a great job on this Asian trip so far,” he enthused. “There are clearly some things on the Asian trip I would like to see that maybe haven’t happened, but I think he’s had a great trip representing the country. It’s great to think one year from the date that he won this great election victory, he’s actually with the president of China. I’ve said from Day One that China is the key relationship, and actually, China was the issue that connected Brexit to the 2016 victory. I think it’s very symbolic that he’s there.”
“I would just tell everybody, our audience is made up of honey badgers. We’re just going to have to work even harder,” he said.