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Blankenship’s loss is an important victory for the Republican establishment

The midterm elections this November are bound to be a rough slog for a Republican Party desperately trying to keep its congressional majority. As former President Barack Obama would say, the Democratic base is “fired up, ready to go.” Democrats are giddy about their prospects; Republicans are for the most part gloomy.

The GOP will need all the help from the heavens to pull this one off. A primary win by coal baron and provocateur Don Blankenship in West Virginia, however, wouldn’t be one of those gifts. There is a reason why Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republican political establishment threw $1.3 million into the West Virginia primary race to stop Blankenship in his tracks: a victory by the ex-felon would very likely have handed that state’s Senate seat to Joe Manchin, one of the most vulnerable Democratic incumbents during this cycle. It is rare when Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell agree, but doing everything they can to prevent a Blankenship win was one such occasion. 

Both men learned lessons from the Alabama Senate race last year, the most vital being that choosing an iconoclast with a dubious past is too risky. If Republicans can lose a Senate seat in deep red Alabama – a state that hadn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate in a quarter-century – they could just as easily repeat the pain in West Virginia with the wrong candidate. Needless to say, allowing a candidate like Don “jailbeard” Blankenship to claim the Republican Party mantle is not a position the GOP wants to be in.

Despite rising in the polls during the last week of the primary, the man who called himself “Trumpier than Trump” came up dreadfully short. In fact, he came in dead last and didn’t even crack the 20 per cent mark. And it’s not at all difficult to imagine McConnell, the Republican National Committee, and the big donors grinning ear to ear and toasting to their success. In a year when the so-called “establishment” has been taken a beating from hard-core conservatives as insufficiently loyal to Trump, too obsessed with the swamp culture of Washington, and unable to bend Capitol Hill to its will, Blankenship’s loss is a small but important victory for this group.  

Because let’s face it: if the GOP has a shot at retaining their majority, electing the unelectable to represent the party in the fall is like shooting both of your feet and attempting to run a marathon. It ain’t going to work.

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