Uh oh: Don Blankenship to file paperwork for third-party Senate bid in West Virginia

If he succeeds it might be the end of the GOP’s already dimming chances of flipping Joe Manchin’s seat from blue to red. Of the three polls of the race between Manchin and Republican Patrick Morrisey taken since May, Manchin leads by 13, 7, and 10 points. He hasn’t put the race away but Trump’s going to need to hit the trail in West Virginia this fall, maybe more than once, to drag Morrisey into contention. If Blankenship’s on the ballot to gobble up the right’s hardcore populist vote, it might end up being too heavy a lift even for POTUS in a state he won by 40 points.

Blankenship, you may recall, is the man who bequeathed the moniker “Cocaine Mitch” to the world. Most of us could live a thousand lifetimes and never match such a precious gift. Why he’s not satisfied with that as his legacy, I’ll never know.

Today’s statement:

We already knew he was interested in ruining Morrisey’s chances at the seat — his advisors have been quite candid about that — and we already knew that he was eyeing the Constitution Party as a vehicle. What we didn’t know was whether he could get the signatures needed to place him on the ballot if if if a court strikes down the “sore loser” law. The answer is: Yep, he can. Blankenship says he has more than 6,000 signatures supporting his bid. Now it’s a matter of West Virginia refusing to certify his candidacy, which the Secretary of State has previously implied it would do, and Blankenship taking them to court. The state will probably win, but I urge you to read Ed’s analysis of the relevant election law from back in May. There’s a bit of wiggle room in the statutory language. Gulp.

Blankenship posted a lengthy statement on Facebook defending his decision, full of muttering about “the swamp” plus an admission that, yes, him landing on the ballot increases the odds of Morrisey losing. The guy took 20 percent of the Republican primary vote, after all. If even a quarter of that share stays loyal to him, it might be enough to tip a tight race to Manchin. Here’s Blankenship (a) gratuitously noting Trump’s sex-scandal problems (while emphasizing that he’s still a big Trump fan) and (b) pretending that Trump is somehow interested in balancing the budget and avoiding national bankruptcy, neither of which is true in anything but a rhetorical sense, yet blaming everyone else in Washington except Trump for it:

When are we going to disband the Energy Department? When are we going to disband the Education Department? When are we going to defund the Environmental Protection Agency? When are we going to actually build “The Wall”? When are we going to balance the budget? When are we going to get on with the business of America and stop acting like who the President slept with is an issue of national importance?

President Kennedy is known as one of our greatest Presidents and his sexual playmates are well documented. President Trump will be one of our greatest Presidents but only if he is surrounded by true supporters of his cause and his policies. In short, America can be great, but it can also be bankrupted and the latter is the course we are on.

There’s a good reason to care about this West Virginia trainwreck apart from the obvious one of wanting the seat to turn red this fall. That reason is Brett Kavanaugh. The more confident Joe Manchin is that he’s going to get reelected easily, the less pressure there is on him to anger his Democratic base by voting yes on Kavanaugh if McConnell needs him to. McConnell probably won’t: It’s unlikely that Rand Paul will vote no, whatever Rand would have you believe today, and it’s also unlikely that Manchin would be the only Democrat to vote yes if it came to that. Heidi Heitkamp, for instance, is neck-and-neck in her own Senate reelection bid and will feel more pressure than Manchin will to support Kavanaugh even if Blankenship is blocked from the West Virginia ballot. But you never know. Paul might resolve to draw a red line on Kavanaugh; Heitkamp may decide that voting for a judge who’s likely to overturn Roe would be simply too dangerous in alienating Dems in North Dakota. Manchin really might be your best bet at a Democratic vote. (He usually is, isn’t he?) With Blankenship’s candidacy potentially splitting the Republican side in West Virginia, lining up the incumbent for an easy reelection win, Manchin might feel comfortable providing the 50th vote to bork Kavanaugh. Stay tuned.