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Bannon, heading to prison, says Biden withdrawal would backfire for Trump

Stephen K. Bannon — the sometime adviser to presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump and influential podcast host who will report on Monday to serve a four-month prison sentence for contempt of Congress — predicted that President Biden’s debate performance will force him out of the race, denying Republicans their weakest opponent.

“The campaign is starting to wake up after spiking the football, I think wrongly,” Bannon, who ran the final months of Trump’s 2016 campaign, said in an interview Sunday.

“Trump’s Thursday was a Pyrrhic victory. … You’re going to take out a guy you know you can beat and beat badly, and we’re going to have a wild card,” Bannon added.

The Biden campaign has acknowledged the president’s weak debate performance but been adamant that it doesn’t change the fundamentals of a close race. In a memo on Saturday, campaign manager Jen O’Malley Dillon wrote that a dip in polls, which already showed that Biden trailed Trump before the debate, would be attributed to negative press coverage rather than a change in voter attitudes.

Bannon, though, predicted that the debate, during which Biden gave answers that were hard to follow and repeatedly appeared to lose his train of thought, would lead to a collapse in poll numbers that the president would be unable to survive. If Biden were to withdraw from the race, it would upend Trump’s campaign, which has always been premised on unseating the incumbent.

Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said O’Malley Dillon’s memo threw “every potential replacement under the bus” by emphasizing their polling weaknesses. “Now they have to face the reckoning of having an inept candidate as their nominee,” he said.

Bannon remains in occasional contact with Trump and his aides. Bannon remains in occasional contact with Trump and his aides. He ruled out any future official role with the 2024 campaign or in the White House. He praised the current campaign leadership. If Biden withdraws, Bannon said, Republicans should attack the messy process of replacing him after Democratic primary voters already cast their ballots.

“We must weaponize their process and show the nation how callous they were, how self-serving they were, how they didn’t put the good of the nation first, they put the good of personal ambition first,” he said.

“They’re going to be searching for a messiah, and then you’re going to have the honeymoon,” Bannon continued. “By the time you get to the Democratic convention in late August, it must be so toxic that whoever it is — if it’s Michelle Obama or Gavin Newsom or whoever it is — that they start off with a minimum of a five-point to seven-point deficit.”

He compared the fallout from the debate to earlier discussions about whether House Republicans should proceed with efforts to impeach Biden for fear of weakening him so much that he did not run for reelection.

“This is the best guy we’re ever going to get,” he said, predicting that Republicans in November would win 340 electoral college votes in the presidential race, 53 or 54 Senate seats, and half a dozen House seats.

Bannon gave an interview while preparing to surrender to authorities and enter a low-security federal prison in Danbury, Conn. On Friday, the Supreme Court rejected his last petition to delay his sentence, after a Washington appeals court denied similar requests. He was convicted in July 2022 on two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Bannon, who encouraged Trump supporters to come to Washington that day, has kept mum on his activities after the mob turned violent, including about two calls with Trump that day. Bannon claimed executive privilege, which no court has accepted.

Bannon said he would spend his sentence continuing to guide his audience through emails and interviews.

“They can’t shut me up,” he said. “I’ll be bigger from prison.”

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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