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Challenge Barrasso

Oct 12, 2017 By Steven R. Peck, Publisher

It is exceedingly hard to believe that one of the Republican U.S. Senators being targeted by former White House advisor and Donald Trump loyalist Steve Bannon's "throw the bums out" campaign next year is John Barrasso.

Wyoming's junior senator, now in his 10th year of service in Washington, certainly can't be challenged on his conservative credentials. He has voted with the Trump administration something like a 96 percent of the time this year, and the only major issue in which he disagreed appears to have been a vote on Soviet sanctions which could be considered more conservative than Trump's position was.

Barrasso carefully has stayed away from criticizing the president, unlike some senators who clearly are in the Trump doghouse. If there has been an unfavorable presidential tweet about John Barrasso, we've never seen it.

Barrasso's main crime, in the eyes of many in this movement, is that he is a high-ranking member of Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate. That might be all it takes for Steve Bannon. You probably have noticed that anytime Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky steps out to the Capitol rotunda to make a statement, Barrasso standing just over McConnell's right shoulder. He now is the fourth-ranking member of Senate leadership, and he stands to move up that ladder in the future.

The president has been at odds with the Senate in general, saving some particularly strong venom for McConnell. It could be that Barrasso, seen as McConnell's close aide and deputy, is getting some unwanted glare reflected from the turmoil between Trump and McConnell.

This week two man said they were considering challenging Barrasso and next year's Republican Senate primary. One is Foster Friess, who is a well-known Republican campaign donor and businessman who has a home in the Jackson area. The other is Erik Prince, brother of current secretary of education Betsy DeVos, and a founder of Blackwater, the private defense contractor that attracted a lot of attention during the Bush administration and recently made more headlines by suggesting that troops take over from U.S. military personnel in the continuing mission in Afghanistan. Prince does not live in Wyoming, but does own property here and could establish residency before the primary

If John Barrasso were not seeking re-election, then either of these candidates would have some plausibility in the race - although Prince is not a Wyoming resident, and Friess will be 78 years old by election day. Either way, however, Barrasso already has announced he is seeking another Senate term. He is a high-profile senator who has increased Wyoming's visibility in that body. He has proved popular in Wyoming politics for years, having served as a Wyoming legislator before winning the special election to replace Craig Thomas, then being elected to a full turn in his own right.

In earlier years, the Casper-based physician established a statewide profile through regular television spots promoting healthy living, and he built a positive image for himself through his annual statewide chairmanship of the Jerry Lewis Labor Day telethon.

No Democrat is remotely on the horizon even the distant horizon who could pose a challenge to Barrasso at this point. And neither Friess nor Prince has confirmed a candidacy, and by no means is it certain that either will enter the primary next year. If both did, even better for Barrasso. They would split the "Bannon" vote, and the senator would cruise to re-election.

That's highly likely to happen in any case. John Barrasso is a guy who would be tough to beat, even if there were some overriding political reason to challenge him. The fact that there isn't makes these potential candidates seen even greater longshots. So far, speculation about them borders on the preposterous.

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2017-10-18