If he pulls this off tomorrow night, there’s only one thing in the world that’ll be able to console “Cocaine Mitch” McConnell. You guessed it: Cocaine.
This endless series of interventions in which party leadership and pundits try to convince GOP voters not to eat out of garbage cans in primaries is tiresome. Sometimes the intervention is premised on a flawed assumption, that voters don’t *know* they’re eating garbage. Do they know that Blankenship went to prison after 29 miners died due to his company’s neglect for their safety?
Well, probably, yeah. Maybe they just don’t care. What if they like how garbage tastes? Who are you to judge them for eating garbage?
Another approach, the “value-neutral” take, is to refrain from criticizing candidates like Blankenship on the merits and to focus instead on electability. This avoids the cardinal sin of “talking down” to populists by suggesting that their taste in political nourishment sucks because garbage is objectively bad for you, instead claiming that garbage may be tasty but there’s no way other people will eat it in a general election. That was Trump’s take in his tweet about Blankenship this morning. Problem is, his own victory in 2016 is stark proof that the “elites” can be wildly wrong when they conclude someone is too inexperienced, corrupt, and/or embarrassing to be electable. Why would any West Virginian who voted for Trump after being told he couldn’t win conclude that Blankenship can’t win?
Increasingly I think the future of the GOP is to elect ever weirder populists, with each successive populist winner enlisted to warn voters that the next populist is a sure loser before again being proved wrong. Come 2025, President Don Blankenship will be tweeting at the California GOP not to nominate the Golden State Killer for governor to own the libs because he can’t possibly win a statewide election. In the meantime, though, yeah, Blankenship can win in West Virginia — in the primary, at least:
Republicans are panicking as internal polls show Don Blankenship, a coal baron who spent time in jail for a mining disaster that killed 29 workers, surging into the lead in the West Virginia Senate GOP primary over Attorney General Patrick Morrissey and Congressman Evan Jenkins.
The results of an internal campaign poll conducted for one rival Senate campaign on Saturday and Sunday were: Blankenship 31 percent, Jenkins 28 percent, Morrissey 27 percent.
The results of another internal poll conducted Friday and Saturday were: Blankenship 28 percent, Morrissey 27 percent, Jenkins 14 percent. Two weeks earlier, the same rival campaign found Blankenship at 14 percent, Morrissey at 29 percent, and Jenkins at 26 percent.
That would explain why both POTUS and Don Jr are suddenly encouraging West Virginians to vote for anyone but Blankenship, which would be a fine strategy in a two-way primary but not so fine in a three-way. Trump should know that better than anyone, having taken advantage of a divided field in 2016 to build up momentum in the early primaries. Trump should have picked Jenkins or Morrisey and gotten behind him foursquare. Instead:
Blankenship is following Trump's early GOP primary playbook of trying to monopolize media attention and making the race a referendum on him, which can be pretty effective when you only need ~35% of the vote to win. https://t.co/muQJzH1ldA
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) May 6, 2018
It could be, though, that the Blankenship “surge” is smoke and mirrors engineered by the other two candidates for their own advantage. Until these internal polls dropped, Blankenship appeared to be losing steam in the race, having slipped to third in several surveys. Silver theorizes that the poll above showing Morrisey behind Blankenship by just a point with Jenkins trailing far behind was a leak from Morrisey’s own campaign to signal to voters that the choice tomorrow is between him and Blankenship. The poll showing Jenkins in second, a point ahead of Morrisey, was probably leaked as a counterpoint by Team Jenkins, to suggest that the choice is actually between him and Blankenship. Trump could have resolved that confusion by choosing one or the other. Oh well.
Blankenship had this to say about Trump’s tweet this morning:
Don Blankenship dismisses Trump's criticism during intvw with WZTS: "He recommended that people vote for a guy that was basically accused of pedophilia in Alabama."
— Alex Seitz-Wald (@aseitzwald) May 7, 2018
So he did, but only *after* he endorsed Luther Strange in the primary over Roy Moore. That was another case in which Trump’s populist fans were intent on eating out of garbage cans and POTUS himself tried to stop them, once again trotting out the value-neutral criticism that the populist can’t win a general election. He turned out to be right about that, but he was embarrassed when Moore beat Strange despite his endorsement. And he was doubly embarrassed when he then turned around and endorsed Moore in the general election, only to have his endorsement ignored again by voters. Is he going to endorse Blankenship too if he wins the primary tomorrow night? No wonder Blankenship’s unbothered by his tweets: After Alabama, there’s no recent evidence that Republican voters particularly care what Trump thinks and there’s every reason to believe Trump will bite the bullet and back him as the party’s nominee if he prevails in the primary. With any luck, by fall Trump will have adopted his vernacular and taken to referring to the Chinese publicly as “the China people.”
Jeff Flake, because he is a cuck and an elitist, chimes in to say that you shouldn’t eat garbage, period, regardless of whether a general electorate would eat it too:
The problem isn’t that Don Blankenship can’t win a general election in West Virginia, it’s that he shouldn’t win a general election in West Virginia. #CountryOverParty
— Jeff Flake (@JeffFlake) May 7, 2018
It’s worth noting how little policy matters to any of this. There’s no argument, as there was with Trump and immigration, that Blankenship has some special commitment to a set of policies that sets him apart from the other candidates. You could justify a primary vote for Trump by saying that you dislike X, Y, and Z about him but that, unlike the rest of the field, at least he’ll build the wall. Blankenship’s pitch appears to be populism in its purest, dumbest form: Nominating him will make “Cocaine Mitch” and the other Beltway Republicans cry, therefore it is good in itself. It’s a reminder that, apart from a select few core cultural issues like immigration and gun rights, the modern GOP effectively has no agenda. It exists solely to keep Democrats out of power. Which is ironic in Blankenship’s case, since he may be the only Republican on the ballot who can keep Democrats in power in the Senate in West Virginia. Here’s his latest ad, proving my point by arguing that even if he were mentally ill like all of his critics say, he’d still do a better job than McConnell and the other bums. Who cares about winning a Senate seat when you can give Cocaine Mitch the finger instead?