Moore equivocated in a radio interview with Sean Hannity last week, saying that he did “not generally” remember dating teenage girls that “if I did, I’m not going to dispute anything, but I don’t remember anything like that.” Since then, Moore has denied knowing the latest accuser despite the fact that she has an old high school yearbook that bears his signature.
“Nobody’s going to try to say that the Moore campaign is handling this well,” one of the sources close to Bannon said.
Another friend of Bannon’s said they still believe Moore will win.
“It’s too much too quick, the establishment is overkilling on this,” the friend said. “I don’t think it stops him from being elected. It’s only grist to our mill if they stop him” from being seated in the Senate.
On the other hand, a Moore loss or withdrawal—or even a win followed by possible expulsion from the Senate—would offer grist to the mill of Bannon’s critics heading into next year’s primary battles.
“Hopefully this isn’t playing out next year,” said Chris Pack, communications director for the Senate Leadership Fund, a McConnell-connected super PAC which backed Strange in the runoff and which has aggressively gone after Bannon. Pack pointed to the Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson distancing himself from Bannon on Monday. “Donors are already walking away from Bannon—and Alabama is ‘Exhibit A’ as to why. While everyone else was talking about tax reform last Friday, Bannon’s minions were on TV talking about the age of consent for sexual relationships with teenage girls. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by many.” (After the initial Washington Post story came out, Breitbart California editor Joel Pollak said on TV that the women who were 16 and 18 at the time shouldn’t have been included in the story because they were of legal age to consent.)
Bannon’s defenders maintain that the Moore story won’t damage Bannon’s political efforts going forward.
When Bannon initially got involved, “I don’t think anybody in the world would have said ‘Come on Bannon, he’s obviously a sexual predator,’” one of the Bannon friends said. “I don’t think anybody’s going to be able to say, ‘See, we told you so.’”
Breitbart quickly claimed credit after Moore won the runoff in September. Pollak wrote that “what Bannon showed on Tuesday was that Trump’s agenda transcends elections” and “Tuesday’s result proved the enduring power and reach of Breitbart News.”
But Moore had been building a political base in Alabama well before Bannon came along, and it’s that base that is keeping him alive in the race for now.
“The idea that Bannon had anything to do with Roy Moore winning the nomination in the first place is risible,” said Quin Hillyer, an Alabama-based conservative writer and activist. “Bannon came in late, Moore was already going to win that race.”