“Blankenshipgeddon” is a terrible headline, I know, but I thought it was better than any of the puns in the offing. “Down with the ‘ship in West Virginia”? “GOP ready to draw a Blank”? Blehhhh.
Tonight’s the night we find out if Republican primary voters are themselves sufficiently whacked out to nominate the man who coined “Cocaine Mitch.” A fun detail from the New Yorker’s profile of him:
We stepped into the parking lot. “You’re not allowed to see my car,” he said. “It’s got Nevada plates.” (Blankenship’s opponents have criticized him for spending most of his time at his home in Las Vegas, where his fiancée lives.) As he looked for his keys, he began telling me about how he used to travel around the country with his son, who competes professionally in rally-car races. “I can’t drive across state lines,” he said. “Until Wednesday!” The day after the primary, his year-long probation will end.
The next senator from West Virginia is still serving out the last remnants of his prison sentence after 29 miners at his company died in part due to his neglect. Voters are at the polls today weighing whether to nominate for high office someone who momentarily can’t leave the state without approval from his P.O.
How much worse would he do against Joe Manchin than his two opponents, state AG Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins? David Byler ran the numbers:
[My] model came up with some interesting outputs. When one party ran a bad candidate, it estimated that the other party got roughly 3 extra percentage points tacked onto their final vote total (with some error around that estimate).
In a close election, 3 points is a lot. In 2012, Republican Dean Heller won his Senate seat by about 1 point over Democratic candidate Shelley Berkley. Berkley wasn’t an especially great candidate, and Berkley’s weakness helped Heller win despite Barack Obama’s simultaneous 7-point statewide victory. Similarly, in 2010 Democrat Michael Bennet won a Colorado senate seat by 1.7 points, partially because Republicans nominated Ken Buck, who also had some issues (though Buck recovered from that loss and eventually made a comeback in the House).
It’s possible to imagine a case where Blankenship’s baggage gives Manchin a similar boost and allows him to win a race he otherwise might lose.
Right, right, West Virginia is among the country’s reddest states and therefore, in theory, Blankenship would have a huge margin for error. That was true of Roy Moore in Alabama too, though. And Manchin has run exceptionally well in his statewide races. He was elected governor in 2004 and 2008 with well over 60 percent of the vote and then took a Senate seat with a 10-point victory in 2010, a year when the rest of the country was being swept up in a red wave. In 2012 he won reelection with 60 percent again, by a nearly 25-point margin. This is no gimme, particularly with Democrats expected to be out in force this fall. A strong candidate (Democrats seem to fear Jenkins the most) may be an absolute requirement for unseating Manchin. Blankenship is … not a strong candidate.
I can’t lie, though. Part of me hopes he wins. We’d all enjoy five more months of “Cocaine Mitch” ads narrated by him in that trademark fugue-state monotone. This is *almost* correct:
If Blankenship wins tomorrow, I think it really will be confirmation that a good portion of the electorate has given up, doesn’t think anything will change, and so just wants to be entertained.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) May 7, 2018
It’s not that nothing will change, it’s that the GOP has no policy agenda beyond tax cuts and gun rights. The party has virtually no reason to exist except to keep Democrats from winning seats and enacting *their* agenda, which is fine as a short-term strategy but destined to fail in the long term. Nominating a convict for no better reason than that he hates McConnell and his “China family” and because it would make the liberals cry would be a candid statement about where the party is. And maybe it’ll embarrass the rest of the national base sufficiently that they start exerting more quality control in other primaries (ahem). Although I remember people saying that too after Christine O’Donnell was nominated for Senate in 2010 and here we are.
Polls close in West Virginia at 7:30 ET. You can follow results live on the NYT elections website. Trump will be watching to see if his anti-endorsement of Blankenship went as unheeded as his endorsement of Luther Strange in Alabama did. My gut is that WV is going to deliver for him and that Blankenship will end up third in a minor surprise, but I’ve been burned before gambling on the basic good sense of Republican primary voters. Exit question: If Blankenship wins, how long before Trump formally endorses him?
— Cristiano Lima (@viaCristiano) May 8, 2018