“All options are on the table,” one of his top strategists said in an interview this week when asked what Blankenship might do to play spoiler. One option that’s not on the table is running as an independent himself, thanks to West Virginia’s “sore loser” law. But he could run attack ads against nominee Patrick Morrisey or even help bankroll a third-party challenger. He’s got the dough, and apparently the butthurt, to do it.
How much can we fault this guy for not being in a “party unity” mood when Mitch McConnell just spent $2 million to make sure he lost his primary?
“Don Blankenship will not be supporting Patrick Morrisey for U.S. Senate,” Thomas told West Virginia’s “Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval.” “I think the one thing he is going to make sure doesn’t happen is that Patrick Morrisey does not become a U.S. Senator.”
Pressed on why, Thomas appeared to point to Morrisey’s New Jersey roots, saying “he’s not going to sit back and let a corrupt carpetbagger highjack our party.”…
“Don Blankenship does not believe [the next senator] should be Patrick Morrisey. He also does not believe it should be Joe Manchin,” he said, adding that “we’ve only just begun.”
Trump called Blankenship after the election to touch base, which seemed like an odd thing to do after urging Republicans in West Virginia not to vote for him a few days before. But maybe the “butthurt Blankenship” scenario was already on the White House’s radar and Trump felt he needed to start the charm offensive early to try to convince him not to ruin Morrisey’s chances. His strategist affirmed at the end of the interview excerpted below that Blankenship will “definitely” be involved in the general election, although maybe that’s just his way of trying to hold on to whatever little political cachet he has left. If he came out tomorrow and endorsed Morrisey, he’d get a round of backslaps from GOP leaders and then they’d immediately forget that he exists. Threatening to blow up Morrisey makes sure that his phone calls will keep getting answered, at least until early November.
Besides, if Trump ever feels inclined to lecture him about party unity, Blankenship can always point back to POTUS declaring during the GOP primaries two years ago that he would not, in fact, honor his own pledge to support the eventual Republican nominee.
A question for West Virginia readers: Does Blankemship actually have his own political following or is he just the populist flavor of the month? He gets compared a lot to Roy Moore because they’re both reactionaries who’d have a difficult time winning a general election even in red states, but Moore definitely isn’t a flavor of the month. He’s been a folk hero to some social conservatives since his Ten Commandments crusade as chief justice of the state supreme court in the early part of the last decade. He was a populist figure of some renown/infamy fully 10 years before Trump finally got into politics. If Moore had lost the Alabama primary to Luther Strange and then vowed to back an independent candidate in the general election, there’s reason to think he could have taken a considerable number of loyalists with him. (Although maybe not enough to spoil Strange’s chances. Strange might have had so easy a time of it against Doug Jones that even Moore siphoning off, say, 10 percent of the vote for a third-party candidate wouldn’t have prevented a Republican victory.) I’d put Joe Arpaio, another guy whose populist cred predates the Trump era, in the same category. If he loses the Arizona primary and tells his fans that the nominee isn’t worth supporting, he’ll convince some people to stay home.
Is Blankenship in the same position? If one of his advisors jumps into the race with $5 million from a Blankenship-backed Super PAC and Blankenship himself heads out on the trail mumbling about sending a message to “Cocaine Mitch,” what would happen? Because remember, Trump will be all-in for Morrisey; he’ll turn up on the trail in West Virginia too, probably more than once. Is Blankenship a guy who commands enough loyalty from his primary voters that he might feasibly convince them to resist a pitch for the party nominee from the populist president of the United States, in a state Trump won in a mega-landslide in 2016? Seems highly unlikely but I’m open to correction by those who follow the state’s politics.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 10, 2018