The GOP primary in West Virginia tomorrow will determine whether or not the Republican Party will face a possible reprise of sorts of the disaster that played out in Alabama and put Doug Jones, a Democrat in the U.S. Senate. Now that the Republican Party welcomes, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, right wing Christian zealots, anti-Semites and other deplorables into its ranks, it was only a matter of time before some of these individuals would decide to throw their hats into the ring as candidates. Trump carried West Virginia by in excess of 40 points yet if Don Blankenship - a convicted felon who arguably was responsible for 29 deaths - wins the GOP nomination, national Republicans believe that Democrat Senator Joe Manchin could breath a sigh of relief and coast to re-election. The Hill looks at the panic that is sweeping Republicans in Washington. Here are article excerpts:
The nightmare scenario for Republicans is upon them: Former coal CEO Don Blankenship — who was in prison a year ago — is the candidate with momentum in Tuesday’s GOP primary to take on Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.).
Two internal polls show Blankenship narrowly ahead of Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.), and Republicans are spooked.
Trump on Monday morning pleaded with West Virginia voters to back either of Blankenship’s opponents, reflecting the widespread belief in the GOP that Blankenship will lose to Manchin in November despite Trump’s popularity in the state.
Trump tweeted in a message that recalled the GOP disaster in December that saw Democrat Doug Jones elected to the Senate over a flawed GOP nominee, conservative Roy Moore.
If he wins on Tuesday, Democrats will have plenty to use against him. The former CEO of Massey Energy led the company during the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion that left 29 people dead. Blankenship was released from prison on May 10, 2017, after his conviction for willfully violating mine safety and health standards.
“If he’s the nominee, Joe Manchin skates to reelection,” one GOP source said of Blankenship on Monday. “He’s the dream opponent.”
Senate GOP leaders have publicly kept their distance from the battle out of concern that any moves to influence the outcome would be viewed by primary voters as meddling and ultimately backfire.
But Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, told reporters after a closed-door leadership meeting that they’ve started discussing “the various scenarios.”
“Uh, don’t know. But let’s just hope and pray that that doesn’t happen,” he added with a laugh, asked what happens if Blankenship wins. “It wouldn’t be good.” . . . "It would not say good things about where the Republican Party is at,” the source said.
Blankenship is running a slash-and-burn campaign, and has been spending $100,000 per day over the final six days of the race.
He fired back at the president over his tweet, saying Trump has been misled by the “establishment.”
“No matter how much Cocaine Mitch McConnell and the D.C. Swamp creatures lie to the voters, and mislead our President, they cannot change the focus of our conservative voters,” Blankenship said on Monday. “We cannot be of The Swamp if we want to Drain The Swamp.” . . . while distancing himself from the president by telling local media that Trump “recommended people vote for a guy that was basically accused of pedophilia in Alabama.”
Blankenship told CBS News that he hadn’t ruled out running as a third-party candidate. But West Virginia has a “sore losers” law that blocks candidates from changing their party affiliation after losing the primary in order to appear on the general election ballot. He could, theoretically, stage a write-in campaign.