Democrats are in the awkward position in West Virginia of rooting for an openly racist ex-con to win the GOP nomination for Senate tomorrow night. His name is Don Blankenship, and as we wrote about in Pajiba Love last night, he has an ad out calling Mitch McConnell “Cocaine Mitch,” and uses some very unfortunate language to describe McConnell’s family. He also separates the races into these categories: “Races are N*gro, white Caucasian, Hispanic, Asian.” Blankenship is also an ex-con who served a year in prison over his role in the most deadly mine explosion in U.S. history, which killed 29 people (how that was a “misdemeanor,” I have no idea).
If you want to know more about him, John Oliver spent 5 minutes on his racist campaign last night (and also explains the origins of “Cocaine Mitch”).
Blankenship, as Oliver states, is not a long-shot to win the GOP nomination. “Look, I know that it’s tempting to write Blankenship off as a wacky outlier, but the truth is, when a party moves as far to the right as Republicans have, the fringe guys are no longer fringe. They pop up all the time, and sometimes they win. And Blankenship is not only surging in the polls right now, but he recently put out an ad doubling down on everything you’ve seen so far.”
But here’s the issue: The GOP will be running against one of the Democrats’ most vulnerable Senators, Joe Manchin, in a state where Trump won 68 percent of the vote. Joe Manchin is sitting on a 43 percent approval rating in West Virginia, down 17 points from last year, while Trump has a higher approval rating in West Virginia than in any other state.
For obvious reasons, with the Senate sitting at 51-49 in favor of the Republicans, Democrats really need to hang on to that seat. If either of Blankenship’s GOP opponents win, Joe Manchin’s odds of winning drop considerably, which even Donald Trump recognizes.
To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State…No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2018
Of course, Trump only exacerbated the problem by not choosing one candidate, and possibly helping to split the “moderate” vote, allowing Blankenship to squeak through. But, if Blankenship does win, Joe Manchin has a much better shot at holding his Senate seat.
The problem as I see it, however, is that this was our hope when Donald Trump won the GOP nomination, that he was so racist and insane that he could never win the general election. And yet, he did. And this is West Virginia, where Blankenship himself is running as a candidate who is even more “Trumpier” than Trump, as he stated this morning in response to Trump’s tweet:
“The President is a very busy man and he doesn’t know me and he doesn’t know how flawed my two main opponents are in this primary … As some have said, I am Trumpier than Trump and this morning proves it.”
So while it might be appealing to root for Blankenship in this race — and Democrats are subtly denigrating Blankenship’s opponents in order to help Blankenship win — don’t put it past West Virginia to vote for a racist laughingstock in the general this November. Supporting Blankenship might be a disaster for the national Republican party, but right now, it’s a toss-up between who would win in a theoretical race between Manchin and Blankenship.
That’s how racist some parts of this country are now.