It is primary day today in West Virginia (among several other states in and around the same area), and it’s a rather significant one. West Virginia went for Trump by 42% points, and yet has a Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin (though we use “Democratic” label in the loosest possible terms, Joe Manchin is no Amy Klobuchar). Therefore, Republicans have, since November of 2016, that they will flip that particular Senate seat “red” in November of 2018. But, the Republican party is nothing if not “unconventional,” and they might be on the verge of nominating the one man in West Virginia who cannot beat Joe Manchin, a man who describes himself as “Trumpier” than Trump, a man who can go pound for pound with Trump on racist dog whistles, a man who already one-up’s Trump in having already earned his felony record, a man who got rich off the backs of poor people (like Trump), however this man got rich of the backs of some people that are now dead because of his criminal failure to adhere to safety regulations in his coal mines, we are, of course, speaking of Don Blakenship.
Blakenship has run a campaign straight out of the Trump playbook, advanced version, promising that only he can bring back coal jobs to West Virginia and speaking with what some Republicans calls “refreshing candor” and normal people call “racist dog whistles.” He initially attracted headlines after he referred to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s father— the Shanghai-born chairman of a global shipping company — as a “wealthy China-person” before claiming that the secretary and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), could not be trusted to put the interests of Americans first because of their “connections in China.” Where was Trump in all this? Why did Trump not come out and say “Hey, jackass, stop disrespecting my Cabinet member, now!” like a real president? Well, we can only speculate that Trump would worry about the appearance of being “PC.”
Trump has actively told West Virginia voters to reject Blankenship in favor of the generic Republican opponents, you know, the ones that can win. As of three weeks ago, the Republican party had every reason to believe they’d accomplished their mission. However, in just the last week, internal polling seems to have lit a panic among Republicans in Congress and the White House, who now sense that Blankenship can win.
Why are they surprised? A criminal, who speaks in racist whistles, treats commoners like dirt, and brags that only he can save them? How can that message not resonate in a state where Trump won by 42%. Blankenship no more belongs in the Senate than did Roy Moore, but there is reason to hope he wins the Republican primary today. Because, just like Roy Moore, his presence on the ballot as a Republican would ensure that an otherwise Red seat stays blue.