Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump teamed up to ensure GOP Senate candidate Don Blankenship did not make it through the Republican primary earlier in May.
“And so he said, ‘Well what if I just make the case that Blankenship would lose in November?'” McConnell told The Washington Post Tuesday. “And I said, ‘That’d be great.'”
The play wasn’t necessarily a secret after Trump took an eleventh-hour swipe at Blankenship on Twitter the day before West Virginia Republican voters headed to the ballot box. He called out Blankenship for exactly what he reportedly told McConnell leading up to the election.
“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!” Trump tweeted the day before the primary, May 7.
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
Blankenship ultimately came in third and Trump’s endorsement, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, won the Republican nomination. Morrisey will take on Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in November.
The failed candidate attributes his loss to Trump, claiming he lost as much as 10 percent of the vote after Trump sent out the tweet. Blankenship is also not a fan of McConnell. He called him “Cocaine Mitch,” “Swamp Captain” and made a campaign out of attacking the majority leader. For his part, McConnell mostly laughed it off, saying after Blankenship lost that “didn’t seem to work out well.” (RELATED: McConnell Comments On Blankenship’s Loss)
Blankenship is now running as a third-party candidate in the race, announcing Monday he will run as the representative of the Constitution Party. West Virginia laws have it that a candidate who failed to win the nomination in one of the two major parties cannot enter the race as a third-party candidate, but Blankenship claims he is ready to challenge the court. (RELATED: Don Blankenship Runs As A 3rd-Party Candidate)
Trump and McConnell understand that maintaining the majority, and potentially picking up more seats to add to their slim 51-seat majority, is key to pushing the Republican agenda in Congress. While the House has been able to pass nearly every facet of the president’s agenda (tax reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare and deregulation), the Senate has had a more difficult time with little-to-no wiggle room for losing Republican votes.
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