Bannon on Gillespie’s loss: ‘You can’t fake the Trump agenda’

WASHINGTON — Former White House strategist Steve Bannon defended President Donald Trump's agenda in the wake of Tuesday's electoral debacle for Republicans.

Virginia voters didn't reject Trump by electing Democrat Ralph Northam governor, they just didn't like Republican Ed Gillespie's pale imitation of Trump's platform, Bannon said Wednesday night.

Speaking to local Republicans in Macomb County, Mich. — a virtual political North Star that has picked the winner in each of the last four presidential contests and was home to many of the "Reagan Democrats" of the 1980s — Bannon described Gillespie as an establishment candidate who tried a Trump-light approach to campaigning in a Democratic-blue state.

RELATED: A look at Republican Ed Gillespie

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Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia Ed Gillespie speaks during a campaign event at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce in Tysons, Virginia, U.S., October 26, 2017. Picture taken October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
ABINGDON, VA - OCTOBER 14: U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, left, points to gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, R-VA, during a campaign rally at the Washington County Fairgrounds on October 14, 2017 in Abingdon, Virginia. Virginia voters head to the polls on Nov. 7. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia Ed Gillespie speaks during a campaign event at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce in Tysons, Virginia, U.S., October 26, 2017. Picture taken October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Republican Party contender Ed Gillespie, who is campaigning to be elected as Virginia's governor, greets supporters during a rally in Chesapeake, Virginia, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Julia Rendleman
Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia Ed Gillespie gestures to supporters after voting at Washington Mill Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein
Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia Ed Gillespie arrives for a campaign event at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce in Tysons, Virginia, U.S., October 26, 2017. Picture taken October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
SPRINGFIELD, VA - November, 4: Ed Gillespie campaigns for the upcoming election at the Accotink Academy in Springfield, VA, November 4, 2017. Ed Gillespie is the Republican nominee for governor of Virginia, running against Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D). (Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA - OCTOBER 26: Republican gubernatorial nominee Ed Gillespie, speaks to the media during a press conference at the Fairfax County Government Center on Thursday, October 26, 2017 in Fairfax, Virginia. Gillespie was joined by attorney general nominee John Adams and other republican leaders. (Photo by Pete Marovich For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MCLEAN, VA - SEPTEMBER 19: Gubernatorial debate between Republican candidate Ed Gillespie, left, and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, Democrat, on September, 19, 2017 in McLean, VA. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
ABINGDON, VA - OCTOBER 14: Gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie, R-VA, and his wife Cathy during a campaign rally at the Washington County Fairgrounds on October 14, 2017 in Abingdon, Virginia. Virginia voters head to the polls on Nov. 7. (Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)
MCLEAN, VA - SEPTEMBER 19: Republican candidate Ed Gillespie makes his opening statement during his debate with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam, Democrat, on September, 19, 2017 in McLean, VA. (Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia Ed Gillespie speaks during a campaign event at the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce in Tysons, Virginia, U.S., October 26, 2017. Picture taken October 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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"One of the things about the Gillespie campaign, is that you can't fake the Trump agenda," Bannon said. "This is a winning agenda. ... This is the agenda America needs now."

Bannon's comments punctuated a day of finger-pointing between the GOP establishment and the party's Trump wing. Trump, Bannon and their allies largely blamed Gillespie and the political demographics of Virginia for the defeat, while many establishment Republicans believe Trump is creating headwinds for his party going into next year's midterm election.

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in an email to NBC News that GOP leaders in Washington will face the wrath of voters if they don't find a way to legislate — which they've struggled to do on major pieces of the party's agenda.

"Despite the rush of campaigns and the fiery rhetoric, when it’s all said and done people expect you to govern," Steele said. "There are no more excuses now for the incompetence that the American people have witnessed. ... Last night, the message was loud and clear: it’s time to govern."

In Michigan Wednesday night, Bannon said Republicans should stick to Trump's tack, which he described as an "economic nationalism" that "binds us together."

Trump's promise to focus on "America first" — by cracking down on immigration, tearing up trade deals and bringing U.S. military forces home — played well in Macomb County, where he won 54 percent of the vote to Hillary Clinton's 42 percent in the 2016 election. Bannon told the Macomb County GOP that he was surprised Clinton didn't spend more time in Michigan and that he had agreed to appear at the event because of the county's importance in delivering Trump's victories in the state and the Electoral College. 

RELATED: Democrats who won in anti-Trump 2017 elections

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Democratic candidate for governor Ralph Northam poses with his wife Pam, daughter Aubrey and son Wes (R) after his election night victory at the campus of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Phil Murphy, the Democratic Party nominee for Governor of New Jersey, reacts to a cheer after voting in Middletown, New Jersey, U.S., November 7, 2017.

He will serve in the position Chris Christie will be leaving.

REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, who is running for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, twirls her umbrella in the rain as she campaigns at Spring Hill Elementary School on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. If Roem wins, she would be the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
MANASSAS, VA - NOVEMBER 7: Danica Roem, C, who ran for house of delegates against GOP incumbent Robert Marshall, is greeted by supporters as she prepares to give her victory speech with Prince William County Democratic Committee at Water's End Brewery on Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Manassas, VA. Roem is the first transgender legislator elected in the USA. (photo by Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Andrea Jenkins won a seat on the Minneapolis City Council, becoming the first openly transgender person of color ever elected to public office in the U.S.

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UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 10: Chris Hurst, whose girlfriend Alison Parker, a reporter for WDBJ-TV reporter, was killed on air last month, greets Gov. Terry McAuliffe, D-Va., during a rally on the East Front lawn of the Capitol to demand that Congress take action on gun control legislation, September 10, 2015. The event, titled #Whateverittakes Day of Action, was hosted by Everytown for Gun Safety and featured speeches by political leaders and families of gun violence victims. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
BLACKSBURG, VA - JULY : Chris Hurst, Democratic candidate for the VA House of Delegates, speaks with Sue Elliott, left, while canvassing a neighborhood in his district on Tuesday, July18, 2017 in Blacksburg, Va. (Jay Westcott/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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