Bannon a ‘specialist’ in picking loser Senate candidates, McConnell says

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WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he did not expect to lose any campaigns in 2018 because of fringe candidates who might have the backing of Breitbart’s Steve Bannon.

“We’re not going to lose any nominations to the kind of candidates that guy you were talking about endorsed,” McConnell said. “What he’s a specialist in is nominating people who lose.”

The Kentucky Republican declined to call Bannon by name in a Wednesday morning interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.

“This is the same element in the party that cost us a bunch of seats in 2010 and 2012. We changed our business model,” McConnell said. “We started winning primaries with people who can actually win in November, and that’s how we took the Senate in ’14, and that’s how we kept the Senate in ’16.”

McConnell said with the possible exception of Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, he didn’t foresee additional retirements within the GOP ranks.

The Kentucky Republican said he expects Hatch will decide soon.

“Mostly we’re on offense in this coming cycle, there are 25 Democratic seats up and only eight of ours,” he said. “We only have one retirement at the moment, Jeff Flake from Arizona. If Sen. Hatch were to take that route there would be two.”

McConnell spoke about politics, taxes and nominations during the Hewitt interview. He sounded upbeat about finishing the tax overhaul and confirming more of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominations before Christmas.

He also said he hoped to get three additional Trump circuit nominees across the floor before the end of 2017, bringing the total in that column to a dozen.

McConnell hinted at an effort to confirm a large batch of executive branch nominees before the end of the year, as is the usual course before holiday recess.

“We hope to have a big package by the end of the year. That’s typically done,” McConnell said, adding that in his view the Democratic treatment of mid-level Trump nominees has been far from the norm.