Rep. Jim Banks launches Senate campaign with tour of right-wing fever swamp

Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday by doing nearly a dozen interviews with right-wing TV and radio hosts and podcasters. His deep dive into the fever swamp demonstrates the influence the party’s radical commentators have on the modern Republican Party.

Banks, a hard-right culture warrior and 2020 election denier who was barred from a position on the House’s January 6 select committee, used the right-wing media to boost his profile as a member of Congress. He regularly appears on Fox News and promotes the conspiracy theories and obsessions of its stars; his communications director is Fox host Tucker Carlson’s son. 

Banks officially announced his campaign during an early morning Fox & Friends hit and ended his day on the network’s prime-time show The Ingraham Angle (his 50th appearance on that program since 2018). In between, he courted Fox heavyweights Sean Hannity and Mark Levin on their radio shows; Newsmax host Sean Spicer; influential podcasters Steve Bannon, Charlie Kirk, and Vince Coglianese; Salem Radio Network host Hugh Hewitt; and local radio hosts Tony Katz and Rocky Boiman. Articles based on his pre-announcement interviews with National Review and also published that day. 

All day long, Banks’ campaign Twitter feed spewed out promotional clips from his various appearances.

Banks used the series of largely supportive interviews to tout his adherence to fringe-right narratives and conspiracy theories. He highlighted how he is “fighting to keep girls’ sports for girls” with Brian Kilmeade; condemned the “globalist agenda” to Laura Ingraham; bemoaned “wokeism infecting corporate America” with Hannity; recounted how he founded the House’s “first-ever anti-woke caucus” because “wokeism is a cancer” in his interview with Coglianese; and complained about the purported teaching of “critical race theory” in schools with Boiman.

Appearances like these give Banks the opportunity to win over powerful GOP figures and the audiences that trust them. And it shows whose support he prioritizes – hardcore insurrectionists like Bannon and Levin who played key roles in Donald Trump’s scheme to subvert the 2020 election, and anti-vax COVID-19 conspiracy theorists like Kirk and Ingraham.

Banks’ campaign is reveling in the success of this strategy of cozying up to the party’s most volatile figures.

Levin endorsed Banks for Senate during their interview, saying that he “demonstrated that you’re very solid and one of the great leaders in the House” and “would be a great senator.” Banks, in turn, praised Levin – the mastermind of the plot to pressure then-Vice President Mike Pence to illegally reject electors from key states won by Joe Biden – as “such an important conservative voice in America today."

Banks’ campaign also promoted praise from far-right commentator Jesse Kelly.

GOP Senate candidates steeped in right-wing culture war narratives had a rough time in the 2022 midterms. It remains to be seen whether Indiana’s voters want to be represented by someone laser-focused on loudly talking about girls’ sports while quietly plotting to shred the social safety net.