Will blistering populist Steve Bannon replace fiery conservative Sen. Jim DeMint as the next president of the Heritage Foundation? Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham won't say.
Asked by Chris Wallace whether Heritage would be Bannon's "safety net as he's forced out of the White House," Needham demurred on "Fox News Sunday." "I can tell you," Needham replied, "there's a lot of speculation in the room and in the media that never misses a chance to divide and attack conservatives."
With that non-answer, speculation over the fate of Heritage Foundation will no doubt reach a new fever pitch. News of DeMint's ouster has already sent shockwaves throughout the think tank and reverberations through right wing circles in Washington, D.C.
Bannon has a close relationship with Heritage board member Rebekah Mercer, the wealthy daughter of a conservative hedge fund manager. Together they helped reshape the conservative political field, backing Trump when others wouldn't. Now they might be preparing to remodel the conservative ivory tower.
Here is more on Rebekah Mercer's ties to think tank land. She has peppered conservative think tanks with tens of millions of dollars over the past several years.
Rumors were that Mr. Bannon had launched his own internal think tank within the White House, but some say that the think tank never really got off the ground.
With Bannon losing power within the White House, Rebekah Mercer (who has given millions to Breitbart News) urging him not to quit, and never having gotten a chance to run his own think tank, it is certainly conceivable that Mercer could be trying to orchestrate a Bannon move to Heritage.
Mercer is currently embroiled in a huge Internal Revenue Service (IRS) fight over billions of dollars, and having Bannon at Heritage could help in that battle.
In related news, Sebastian Gorka, a prolific think tanker who apparently served on Bannon's internal think tank, reportedly will be moving to a federal agency (and there is still a chance he could join Heritage).
Interestingly, in the past, Gorka has been funded by Thomas Saunders III, the current Chairman of the Heritage Foundation.
Update: Conservative lawmakers are now rallying to support Jim DeMint, and have released a letter praising him. The letter is co-written by Mark Walker (R-NC) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT).
Update II: Daniel Drezner, a longtime think tank watcher, suggests that Mike Needham would become the next president of the Heritage Foundation.