WARREN, Mich. (AP) — President Donald Trump's former chief strategist Steve Bannon said Wednesday that Republican candidates cannot "fake" it and must double down on Trump's agenda despite fresh GOP election losses.

Bannon spoke at a Republican event in Michigan on the anniversary of Trump's presidential victory and a day after Democrats scored big victories in Virginia, New Jersey and elsewhere. He downplayed the gubernatorial loss in Virginia, calling it a "blue state" and GOP candidate Ed Gillespie a "good man."

"One of the things that the Gillespie campaign shows you is you can't fake the Trump agenda. You have to go all in," Bannon told a crowd of more than 700 in Macomb County, where working-class voters helped Trump become the first Republican presidential nominee to win Michigan in 28 years. "This agenda is a winning agenda. Do not believe the opposition party. Do not believe the fake news and the fake media."

Before Tuesday's election, Bannon had cheered Gillespie's embrace of parts of the Trump agenda — such as opposition to sanctuary cities shielding immigrants and taking down Confederate monuments — saying it showed a way for Republicans to succeed in future races.

While the fundraiser was a "unity" dinner and Bannon credited a broad mix of voters for Trump's election, he also blamed Senate Republicans for not enacting more of Trump's agenda in Washington. The crowd applauded heavily when he mentioned having left the White House to "take on the Republican establishment." He runs conservative Breitbart News.

"Most of the defeats are because the Republican establishment cannot execute on the plan," Bannon said, noting that many bills passed by the GOP-led House have stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Macomb was home to the "Reagan Democrats" in the 1980s. In 2012, President Barack Obama carried the county by 4 percentage points. Trump, who campaigned heavily there, enjoyed an 11 point-plus margin in 2016.

Bannon, who did not touch on Michigan's 2018 contests for governor and U.S. Senate as GOP candidates listened — said a candidate's authenticity is "everything" in today's political landscape.

The "unity" dinner, a fundraiser for the Macomb County GOP that drew protesters outside, was panned by Democrats.

Republicans cannot "paper over their civil war," said Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Brandon Dillon, who added that Bannon is hard-pressed to explain the "beating" the GOP took from Democrats in Tuesday's elections.

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