- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2016

For those hoping to enjoy a breather before the 2018 campaign kicks off, apparently time’s up.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group funded by liberal billionaire George Soros, announced Wednesday that it will launch the first anti-Republican television ad of the 2018 election on Thanksgiving, just 16 days after the Nov. 8 balloting.

In what is quickly emerging as a theme of the nascent 2018 campaign, the ad attempts to link a Republican incumbent — in this case, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake — to Steve Bannon, former Breitbart editor and chief strategist for Republican President-elect Donald Trump.

The committee said the ad will air over Thanksgiving on CNN and MSNBC in Phoenix and Tucson, as well as on CNN in Washington, D.C., and continue into next week.

The 30-second spot features news clips in which commentators, including PCCC founder Adam Green, accuse Mr. Bannon of being white nationalist, and urges viewers to call Mr. Flake and “demand Trump fire Bannon.”

Tying Mr. Flake to the Trump administration may be a bit of a stretch, given that the Arizona Republican feuded with the GOP presidential nominee throughout the campaign, telling CNN in September that he “would still not vote for Donald Trump.”

Last week, Mr. Flake said he wanted to give the president-elect “some space” as he assembles his cabinet and staff, which is the ad’s money quote.

“I’m of the mind to always give the president a lot of deference when he’s putting together his team,” says Mr. Flake in the ad, a comment made during his Nov. 16 appearance on “CBS This Morning.”

The left-wing group UltraViolet is also zeroing in on Mr. Bannon with newspaper ads linking him to three Republican senators facing reelection in 2018: Mr. Flake, Nebraska’s Debra Fischer, and Nevada’s Dean Heller.

Mr. Soros and his son Jonathan Soros have both donated to the PCCC, which raised $4.7 million during the 2016 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Debate has raged over Mr. Bannon’s views and perceived role as a leader of the so-called alt-right, with critics accusing him of being anti-Semitic and racist, allegations that he has denied.

Mr. Trump defended Mr. Bannon in an interview Tuesday with the New York Times, saying the attacks have been “very hard on him” and that “It’s not him.”

“If I thought he was a racist or alt-right or any of the things, the terms we could use, I wouldn’t even think about hiring him,” Mr. Trump said.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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