SALT LAKE CITY — Steve Bannon, a former chief strategist for the White House, has added Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch to a list of GOP senators he plans to target, according to multiple reports.
And he may even have a candidate in mind — Boyd Matheson, Sen. Mike Lee's former chief of staff.
Bannon plans to back primary challengers to almost every Republican senator who runs for re-election next year in an effort to depose Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and streamline Senate voting procedures, according to Bloomberg News. Reportedly, only Sen. Ted Cruz is safe.
But should Hatch run again, "he will win," a staffer says in response to a Breitbart News report that says conservatives are looking for challengers to incumbent Republicans.
The story, published over the weekend, says "conservatives and economic nationalist leaders are looking past the current dysfunction in Washington to a group of new and exciting young candidates throwing their hats in the ring nationwide to break the gridlock with midterm election victories."
In a story posted Monday, Matheson told Politico he is open to running regardless of whether Hatch, 83, seeks re-election. Matheson traveled to Washington last week, where he met with Bannon and Citizens United President David Bossie.
Hatch's communication director Matt Whitlock reiterated on Twitter that Hatch "has not made a final decision regarding (whether) to continue serving after 2018. Should he decided to run again, he will win."
Whitlock took issue with the Breitbart News article, which refers to The League of Extraordinary Candidates "all united in their focus on breaking the logjam in Congress."
Bannon is executive chairman of Breitbart News.
Leaders of the movement view establishment Republicans and Democrats "as a force blocking, slow-walking, or stonewalling the agenda that President Donald J. Trump campaigned on, and aim to elect new voices by riding a new economic nationalist electoral wave in 2018 meant to mirror and surpass what happened in previous wave elections like 2010 — which saw the rise of the tea party," the article states.
Whitlock noted: "Last week, Sen. Hatch was named the most effective member of the United States Senate and found to be six times more effective than the average senator in accomplishing his legislative agenda.
"While Washington is stuck in divisive gridlock, Sen. Hatch is one of the few people in Washington continuing to deliver results for his constituents."
Andy Surabian, a senior adviser to the Great America Alliance and ex-White House aide, told Breitbart News, “We’re planning on building a broad anti-establishment coalition to replace the Republican Party of old with fresh new blood and fresh new ideas.”
Hatch, who is serving his seventh term as Utah's senator, is the most senior Republican in the Senate.
He is chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance and is also a member of the Judiciary Committee. He also serves on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and is a member of the Joint Committee on Taxation.
Politico said Matheson, who runs the Salt Lake City-based Sutherland Institute think tank, would likely win support from an array of influential conservatives, including Bossie, who served as President Donald Trump’s deputy campaign manager. Matheson has also met with Family Research Council head Tony Perkins, Senate Conservatives Fund President Ken Cuccinelli, and Club for Growth leader David McIntosh. When they huddled in Washington last week, Matheson and Bannon discussed how a 2018 campaign would play out.
"He is going to be the consensus conservative candidate among all the outside groups and will have a lot of the financial support that's out there,” Bossie told Politico. “He's going to be someone people coalesce around very quickly."