Pro-Trump group endorses in key Senate primaries

Former White House strategist Steve Bannon takes part in an interview with host Sean Hannity, on the set of Fox News Channel's Hannity, in New York Monday, Oct 9, 2017.
Former White House strategist Steve Bannon takes part in an interview with host Sean Hannity, on the set of Fox News Channel's Hannity, in New York Monday, Oct 9, 2017. AP

A prominent pro-Donald Trump super PAC with ties to ex-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is rolling out its official endorsements in the Wisconsin and Arizona GOP Senate primaries.

Great America PAC will announce that in Wisconsin, it is supporting Kevin Nicholson, a Marine veteran running in a hotly contested primary to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat running for re-election in a state President Donald Trump won.

"Americans are tired of the inaction from the Washington swamp and demand Senate Republicans ... get off their backsides and pass President Trump's America First Agenda," said Ed Rollins, the organization's chief strategist, in a statement announcing the endorsement.

Both Nicholson and his rival, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, have also spoken with Bannon, the current head of the hard-right outlet Breitbart who is heavily involved in boosting insurgent-minded candidates — especially Senate candidates — across the map.

According to a Bannon source with direct knowledge of Nicholson's conversation with Bannon, the Wisconsin candidate indicated that he would not support Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as leader. Asked for confirmation, Nicholson campaign spokesman Michael Antonopoulos did not dispute that account.

"Kevin supports term limits for himself and the full Senate, including leadership," he said. "The conservative grassroots--and Americans across the board--strongly believe that career politicians aren't getting the job done and that we need new leaders and fresh ideas in Washington. Kevin could not agree more."

Meanwhile, in Arizona, Great America PAC is also highlighting its support for former state Sen. Kelli Ward, who recently met with Bannon at a secretive conservative confab in Colorado Springs.

While Great America PAC had already been openly boosting Ward — with the founder of the organization also assisting her campaign efforts — some recent reports have suggested that Bannon was still looking around for another challenger to Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., the target of conservative ire over his frequent criticism of Trump.

"Steve is supportive of Nicholson and is supportive of Ward," the source close to Bannon said.

Great America PAC's release noted that it has previously endorsed four other Senate candidates: Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who is running in Tennessee; West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Montana State Auditor Matt Rosendale and former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore, whose campaign Bannon, Great America PAC and its affiliates and other conservative groups worked to boost.

Taken together, the slate of endorsements so far suggests that Bannon and his allies will be playing in a mix of open Republican primary contests — with the end goal of challenging incumbent Democrats — as well as supporting some primary challenges to sitting GOP senators. Bannon's political adviser at the White House, Andy Surabian, recently joined Great America Alliance — affiliated with the PAC— as a senior adviser, deepening the links between Bannon and the organization.

In 2016, Great America PAC raised more than $30 million in support of Trump.

Katie Glueck: 202-383-6078, @katieglueck