Steve Bannon lost
Trump’s former senior adviser pushed election deniers and conspiracy theorists in the midterms. Voters across the country rejected them.
In June, former Trump senior adviser and podcaster Steve Bannon predicted Republicans could win 100 seats in the upcoming midterm elections.
“100 Seats; 100 years,” Bannon posted on GETTR. “The 100 seat pick-up is doable with these numbers — Illegitimate Biden Regime’s numbers crater to HISTORIC LOWS.”
That was then. There are still many races across the country too close to call, including some that Bannon took a major interest in, but already one thing is clear: Bannon’s preferred candidates had an awful evening on November 8.
Over the course of 2022, the War Room podcast has taken on multiple concurrent organizing efforts aimed at undermining American democracy. It has been an campaign platform for election deniers, from high-stakes national and state races to the “hyper-locality” levels. Bannon dedicated a sizable portion of his time to recruiting hard-right MAGA candidates and promoting election-denial groups organizing volunteers both inside and outside of official infrastructure. He has motivated his audience with violent rhetoric, promising to threaten members of Congress “by bayonet” if they do not comply with his agenda, issuing a “call to arms,” and repeatedly defending men wearing camouflage and carrying guns outside ballot drop boxes in Arizona.
In addition to his work recruiting extremists, denying past and future elections, and promoting violence, Bannon also has deep ties to institutional power players in the Republican Party, including Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel. In the final weeks before the midterms, McDaniel repeatedly appeared on War Room to push baseless innuendo about voter fraud and election insecurity, and to recruit poll workers and watchers. For decades, the RNC had been barred from poll monitoring by a consent decree that recently expired, and Bannon’s conspiratorial hub was fertile ground for the kinds of denialist activists the RNC was looking for. On November 1, McDaniel said she saw a “jump” in volunteers after her recent calls to action on War Room.
Despite all of these efforts, the results on election night were disastrous for Bannon and his band of cranks.
Bannon championed Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, an election denier and Christian nationalist with close ties to antisemites, including Gab founder Andrew Torba and neo-Nazi collaborator Jack Posobiec. Mastriano eschewed traditional media outlets for right-wing venues like Bannon’s, where he found a sympathetic host ready to push conspiracy theories against his opponent, Democratic Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
“Shapiro's going to lose to Doug Mastriano,” Bannon said on October 27, before referencing a soon-to-be debunked conspiracy theory about unverified ballots. “The only way Shapiro can win is to cheat, and you're seeing it right here.”
In fact, Shapiro trounced Mastriano; he was up by 13 points with 93% of precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning.
Bannon’s preferred gubernatorial candidate in Michigan, Tudor Dixon, lost by a wide margin as well. Bannon repeatedly interviewed Dixon — a former host on Real America’s Voice, the same network that broadcasts War Room — over the course of her campaign, including just days before the midterm.
“As I’ve gotten to know Tudor Dixon over the last couple years, one thing you can talk about her — very smart, very focused, very tough, but a very decent and really a great person,” Bannon said to introduce her on November 3.
Despite Bannon’s praise, her record is quite extreme. Dixon is a conspiracy theorist who falsely claimed Trump won Michigan in 2020 and pushed a bizarre theory that the Democratic Party is aiming to “topple” the United States government in retaliation for losing the Civil War.
In New Hampshire, Senate candidate Don Bolduc — an election denier with close ties to QAnon adherent and retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — also lost in a blowout to Democratic incumbent Sen. Maggie Hassan. Bolduc appeared on War Room repeatedly throughout the year, and right-wing radio host John Fredericks recently appeared on the show to sing Bolduc’s praises.
“Bolduc is just surging,” Fredericks told Bannon on October 27. “And you can see it in his step, you can see it in the people — the enthusiasm.”
“He’s surging, we’re going to run the table in New Hampshire,” Fredericks continued, paraphrasing the predictions of local GOP officials.
In Ohio, Republican House nominee J.R. Majewski lost in a landslide to Democratic incumbent Rep. Marcy Kaptur after running a campaign defined by lies and exaggerations about his military record and his ties to the QAnon conspiracy theory movement.
“I believe in everything that’s been put out from Q,” Majewski said in a 2021 video uncovered by Media Matters. He added that he “wanted nothing more than to go in that building”during the January 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Majewski was a regular presence on War Room throughout his candidacy. “I’m the new face of the Republican Party, absolutely,” he told an approving Bannon on May 10.
Several other Bannon-backed candidates lost their House races as well. New Hampshire congressional candidate Karoline Leavitt, a former press aide to Trump, suffered a significant loss to incumbent Rep. Chris Pappas. Leavitt appeared on War Room numerous times during her campaign, including once in 2021 when she falsely claimed Trump “absolutely” won the 2020 election.
In Texas, hard-right GOP candidate Mayra Flores lost to Democratic incumbent Rep. Vicente Gonzalez.
“The left will see you as an existential threat,” Bannon told Flores on War Room on April 21. “You’re an existential threat to the system because you’re a Hispanic American citizen that’s sitting there going, ‘Hey, we’re not buying it anymore.’”
Bannon later touted Flores’ candidacy on July 6, favorably referencing a New York Times article on the “rise of the far-right Latina.” On October 28, Bannon hosted conservative activists Rick Potter and Melissa Katz, who were trying to recruit volunteers for Flores and three other hard-right candidates: Cassy Garcia, Monica De La Cruz, and Kyle Sinclair. Garcia and Sinclair lost their races as well.
Bannon also supported a host of election deniers for secretary of state positions throughout the country, including Kristina Karamo in Michigan, who appeared on War Room frequently during her campaign. Karamo — who repeatedly said the 2020 election was stolen and was part of a QAnon-aligned coalition to recruit far-right secretary of state candidates — lost on Tuesday night by a wide margin.
In New Mexico, election denier Audrey Trujillo lost her race for secretary of state by double digits. She had appeared on War Room at least twice and separately referred to the 2020 election as a “coup.” On June 8, Bannon asked her thoughts about “voter integrity and 2020.”
“I absolutely know that there is things that were nefariously done, here in New Mexico especially,” Trujillo said in response.
She was back on the show November 3 to spread more voter fraud conspiracy theories. “We have people voting in our elections that aren’t even registered in New Mexico, that, you know, have been pretty much off the charts and they’re still allowing them to vote here,” Trujillo said, incorrectly.
There are still some races Bannon invested in heavily that are too close to call — most notably in Arizona, where Bannon and other right-wing media personalities are working overtime to manufacture controversies about Election Day malfeasance. It’s still very possible that Republicans will take control of the House, and the Senate remains up for grabs.
Even with all of these considerable losses, it’s worth reiterating the extent to which key positions championed by Bannon have become close to party orthodoxy, specifically conspiracy theories about voter fraud. According to The New York Times, at least 180 election skeptics — and at least 32 outright denialists — won House seats in the midterms, a sign that even as Bannon’s candidates lose, the Republican Party continues to embrace his radical, anti-democratic stances.