This story has been updated.
It’s Steve Bannon’s fault.
That’s what several prominent conservatives concluded of former White House strategist Steve Bannon Tuesday night in the wake of Democrat Doug Jones’ victory over Republican Roy Moore in Alabama’s senate race.
Matt Drudge, the founder of the Drudge Report and a powerful figure among Republican politicians and conservative media figures, splashed his website with “Bannon Busted” and tweeted that Republican Luther Strange would have “won in a landslide.” (Strange lost to Moore in the Republican primary as Bannon and his website Breitbart drummed up support for Moore.)
On Wednesday, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) blasted Bannon on CNN, saying that he looked like "some disheveled drunk who wandered onto the national stage" and suggested that the GOP should distance itself from Bannon. He continued the criticism on Twitter.
Rich Lowry, the editor of the conservative National Review, was especially gratuitous in his criticism of Bannon.
And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s former chief of staff Josh Holmes also aimed the blame at Bannon even before the final result were in.
The McConnell-aligned Senate Leadership Fund, which supported Strange in the primary, also attributed Moore’s loss to Bannon. “Not only did Steve Bannon cost us a critical Senate seat in one of the most Republican states in the country, but he also dragged the President of the United States into his fiasco,” said Steven Law, the president and CEO of the group.
It is not the first time these conservatives have criticized Bannon, and some of their darts may be an opportunistic effort to diminish his influence in the party. Moore’s loss is an enormous blow to Bannon who had been riding high from helping guide Donald Trump to his victory last November.
But throwing in with Moore may prove to have been a crucial mistake. Even after the allegations that Moore had molested a 14-year-old girl when he was in his thirties, Bannon stuck by Moore and appeared with him in a rally on election eve. Moore told Bloomberg News that Bannon “helped us a lot. He’s the master strategist.”
But many established Republicans saw an amateur rather than a master and the loss in Alabama could make it more difficult for Bannon to continue his war against the Republican Party. Bannon had been planning to use Moore’s victory as a lunching pad for primary challenges against several more Republican senators in 2018. That battle may be more difficult to wage now.