Their presence here also underscored the fevered interest in this low-turnout runoff election, which has turned into a larger proxy war for opposing forces on the right and which has attracted national press due to Bannon’s efforts against Trump’s preferred candidate. Taking the stage as the last speaker, Moore even thanked Bannon directly, calling him an “outstanding man” and saying that he had had one phone call with him and met him once in person, and that he had received more encouragement from him than anyone else. (Moore also at one point brandished a gun onstage that he pulled from his pocket.)
Moore’s anti-establishment appeal stems from his crusade to keep a monument to the 10 Commandments in Alabama’s supreme court, a saga that made him a star in grassroots conservative circles; many Alabamians view Moore’s hard-right social conservatism as a sign of his commitment to standing on principle. Strange, on the other hand, is viewed by Moore voters as merely a tool of the Republican establishment, and they question the way he was appointed by scandal-laden former Governor Robert Bentley, whom he was investigating at the time.
McDaniel, stopping to talk to reporters before entering the venue, smiled when asked who had invited him there: Bannon, or the Moore campaign.
“One and the same, aren’t they?” he said.
Farage said he had been sitting at home in England on Saturday night when he got a call from Raheem Kassam, the Breitbart London editor who is among the crew of Breitbarters deployed down to Alabama this week and who introduced Farage onstage on Monday night. “It was Saturday evening, I’d cut the grass, the sun was starting to go down, I thought, ‘Well, it’s probably time for a drink now,’” he said. “And then the phone rings, and it was Raheem on behalf of Bannon, saying would you come to Alabama, or words to that effect. So I thought about it very hard—I thought about it for certainly 10 seconds to make my mind up.” (Farage gave a similar version of this account onstage shortly after giving it to me, but the onstage version had Bannon calling him directly.)
Bannon arrived shortly before the event was scheduled to start and made his way to the outdoor backstage area as fans and reporters looked on. He sat in a chair as a woman put makeup on him.
Bannon took the stage wearing his signature green Barbour-style jacket, which he referenced during his speech, noting that he was unshaven and that he hadn’t worn it since the campaign.
Though Bannon’s stance in Alabama has put him directly at odds with Trump, he was strenuous in his praise of the president on Monday.
“People have asked, why is Sarah Palin and Phil Robertson and Nigel Farage and and Mark Levin and Mark Meadows and Dr. Savage, I could go on and on—Laura Ingraham—on and on and on of the people who support Judge Moore and not the candidate Donald Trump is backing,” Bannon said. “All the folks I talked about are the hardest core supporters of Donald Trump and I apologize to Plutarch and Shakespeare as I do a riff on them, but we did not come here to defy Donald Trump. We came here to praise and honor him.”