WASHINGTON (AP) – At the invitation of Donald Trump, Indiana Rep. Jim Banks recently led a small group of House Republicans to the former President’s golf club in New Jersey, where they ate beef tenderloin, posed for photos, and briefed him on strategy for the midterm elections 2022.
Banks tweeted a picture of himself and Trump grinning widely while showing a thumbs up after the June session. “It was all about the future of the Republican Party,” he said.
Whatever that future holds, 41-year-old Banks is aggressively working to play a prominent role in it. As a politician with summit ambitions, he rises in the ranks of the Republicans in the House of Representatives – and in the assessment of the whimpering Trump.
Banks’ overnight trip to Trump’s Bedminster Resort marked a political journey from a county council seat in a small town in northeast Indiana to notoriety in Congress in just over a decade. It also served as evidence of the banks’ transformation from Trump critics to uncompromising supporters.
Banks was recently selected to head the Republican Study Committee, a powerful voting bloc that includes most of the members of the House Republican Conference. If successful, it is a project that could propel Banks to the top of the house.
On Wednesday, Banks was invited to tour the US-Mexico border in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, where the former president is expected to rail against illegal immigration.
“Jim understands that the Republican Party has no future without Trump supporters. But he also understands that conservative principles of the traditional movement must have a future, ”said Luke Messer, a former Indiana congressman who retired in 2019 after a failed Senate election. “He’s trying to solve both halves of the equation, and his colleagues recognize his talent.”
As with other Republican fighters, including New York MP Elise Stefanik, the third-largest member of the House’s GOP, his development was rapid.
Supported Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s potential ties to Russia, Banks once said “America deserves better” after a video surfaced of Trump discussing sexually assaulting women without their consent.
Trump’s 2016 election is a “gift” that could make Republicans a “majority party for a long time,” he says.
While Banks has shown himself to be politically adept at dealing with Trump, his colleagues also say he understands politics too.
“There are some congressmen who excel in the political arena and don’t do that much in the political arena, and vice versa. But Jim is one of the few people who do both, ”said Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., Who served a previous tenure at the head of the group that Banks now does.
Personalities like banks have a long history in Congress. So long that historically a nautical term from the 19th century was applied to their peers.
“He’s a trimmer,” said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University who studies congressional history. “This means a guy who trims his sails depending on the wind direction. In his case he is a serial trimmer. “
Banks describes it differently.
“I was very skeptical,” Banks said of his early views on Trump. But, said Banks, “he has convinced me more every day by doing what he said, what he wanted to do.”
Critics of the banks use a different term: political expediency.
“Everything Jim Banks does is based on how it will help him politically,” said Gary Snyder, a Republican-turned Democrat who writes an Indiana politics newsletter. The two were close earlier in Banks’ political careers before falling out when Snyder’s wife ran as a libertarian against Banks in 2016.
“He’s cunning and manipulative. But he plays the game very well, ”said Snyder.
Banks’ beginnings go back to a trailer park in Columbia City, Indiana, near Fort Wayne. His father worked as an axis maker for Dana Corp. while his mother cooked in a nursing home. The family is largely apolitical, Banks said, even though his parents voted for Democrats. When Banks was elected to Congress the night Trump won the presidency, his father, like much of India, had become a convert.
“My father couldn’t have been as interested in (my choice) as he was in the Donald Trump presidency,” Banks fondly recalls of GOP dinners in Indiana.
Banks, the first in his family to go to college, got his first taste of politics when he joined the Indiana University College Republicans. There he met his wife Amanda. He then worked for the former Indiana Rep. John Hostettler, then sharpened his political instincts by working on mostly unsuccessful campaigns in Ohio, Indiana, and Colorado.
“You always learn more when you lose,” said Banks. He later got a “real job” in a construction company before he and his wife had the first of their three daughters. His political rise began when he became GOP chairman of Whitley County and later secured a place on the local council.
Two years later, he started an application for the Indiana State Senate. Party insiders quickly took note of this.
A senior state official had signaled an interest in the vacancy, and Banks said he would only run if lawmakers didn’t, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported. Behind the scenes, however, Banks worked to outmaneuver the potential rival. Banks asked Snyder, then a blogger, to deliver a message: step down or face a tough area code.
“I basically went up to the guy and said, ‘Jim wants you to step aside. Instead, he will help you run for state representative. And that’s basically what happened, ”said Snyder.
Later in the race, Banks would point out another rival’s actions and ask Snyder to blog posts negative about the candidate, according to emails to The Associated Press.
One email contained a list of derisive cases in which Banks’s opponent used poor grammar. Another urged Snyder to write a critical post pointing out that the rival was sending campaign material to people with government email addresses in what appears to be an inappropriately blending of political and official affairs.
Banks said the campaign was “a long time ago” but he did not deny the account. His former opponent Tom Wall said the two made it up for a long time.
“I like the guy. I pray for him all the time, ”said Wall. “Don’t tell him too much or his head will swell too much, but I’m so proud of him when I see him on Fox News.”
Like many politicians with a view to higher office, Banks saw value in military ID. In his early 30s, Banks was inducted into the Navy Supply Corps, a program that focuses on supply chain management. In November 2012 he was appointed as a reserve officer.
In 2014, after the birth of his third daughter, Banks served eight months in Afghanistan. Amanda Banks was appointed to fill his Senate seat. While on the job, he tweeted photos where he met Republican Sens Lindsay Graham from South Carolina and Ben Sasse from Nebraska.
When Banks returned, a film crew was there to catch the family reunion. The footage was used in political advertisements after he officially began campaigning for Congress three weeks later. His combat boots were featured prominently at its launch event.
“A lot of families go through this over and over, much more so than my family,” said Banks, who denied any suggestion that politics was a factor in his decision to join, calling it “offensive to anyone who served.” ”
He won a close primary race with the help of conservative group Club for Growth, which spent more than $ 250,000 on advertising. The hardliner House Freedom Caucus spent $ 100,000 to support his offer, though he ultimately chose not to join the group.
Almost half of the campaign money he has raised since then has come from trade associations and corporate political action committees, a source of money that the US Capitol won after the banks’ vote against the confirmation of Joe Biden’s presidential victory on the 6th.
According to banks, corporate money is no longer needed in Trump’s party.
“For most of my time in Republican Party politics, we’ve heard the mantra that Republicans are the party of big business,” he said. “This paradigm has changed. Now, Joe Biden and the Democrats’ major backers are Wall Street, and big tech companies and the Republican donor base are small dollar working class voters.
Banks has a close relationship with the Republican leader of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy of California. And he played a prominent public role in building the GOP’s case for the ousting of Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Congressman who was sacked from third place in the House of Representatives in May.
“The reason you and I are talking about Liz Cheney,” Banks told Fox News, “is because she failed in her mission as our party’s main spokesperson.”
But he has also won other influential members in the Republican faction of the House of Representatives.
“I am serious lawmaker and I value other people who are serious lawmakers,” said Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee. “We have some people in this town who just want to chase TV cameras – and that’s not Jim.”
Banks’ rise mirrors that of another Indiana Congressman who defended his leadership of the Republican Studies Committee in an attempt to gain greater prominence: former Vice President Mike Pence.
“Jim Banks wants to be influential,” says Andy Downs, professor of political science at Purdue University Fort Wayne. “If Jim Banks decides his (home-seat) is an office he wants to do things from, he will be able to be influential for decades.”