It seems as though the media has not learned from propping up Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican primary.
Last night, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey easily won the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Joe Manchin. But for the last few weeks — and especially the last several days — the candidate we heard the most about was Don Blankenship, the former business executive turned convicted criminal who was easily defeated by a large margin.
Perhaps this isn’t entirely surprising. Blankenship’s story seemed like ratings gold, as he was running for office three years after being found guilty of conspiring to willfully violate mine safety and health standards due to an explosion that killed 29 miners — and just one year after being released from prison. Should he have won the Republican nomination, his quixotic candidacy would have been a gift for incumbent Democrat Senator Joe Manchin in the November election.
To add more fuel to the media fire, at a Fox News debate last week Blankenship referred to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Asian father-in-law as a “Chinaperson.”
Indeed, it was certainly newsworthy that voters openly admitted that Blankenship was a crook and they still intended to vote for him:
West Virginia voter who says he lost three cousins in mine disaster tied to Don Blankenship tells @TomLlamasABC he's voting for the coal baron anyway.
"I want an honest crook, and that's Blankenship." https://t.co/6CmPQXqK2u pic.twitter.com/jeWQUUZ5hI
— ABC News (@ABC) May 8, 2018
However, Blankenship lost last night. And not only did he lose, he was rejected resoundingly by the voters. Four in five West Virginia Republicans voted for someone else.
More the half of precincts have reported, Morrisey leads in West Virginia's GOP Senate race. Follow live results here: https://t.co/JbnBSeJ6YE pic.twitter.com/vQiBX0ykMp
— POLITICO (@politico) May 9, 2018
But based upon the coverage by the media, one would have thought that he was a strong favorite to win — or at least be competitive.
Republican 🚨s are going off.
WH official: "Don Blankenship winning this seat dramatically reduces our chances of winning in November."
McConnell-world operative: "If Don Blankenship wins the primary, Joe Manchin skates to re-election in November."https://t.co/XDHgKgZxPB
— Dan Merica (@merica) May 8, 2018
GOP candidate Don Blankenship is surging on eve of W. Virginia primary in spite of racist ads and criminal conviction related to deaths of 29 coal miners. https://t.co/nChhflrEuh pic.twitter.com/80DZFGFSn3
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) May 6, 2018
"Don Blankenship is the GOP" https://t.co/yfPLIY9BfK pic.twitter.com/HTzFvMLtdo
— The Hill (@thehill) April 6, 2018
This has caused many conservatives to wonder why there has been so much focus on Blankenship.
It looks like Blankenship is going to come in third in his primary despite the media’s inexcusable focus on him and complete blackout of his opponents.
I mean how do you explain the press having most of their reporters in WV covering the 3rd place primary finisher? https://t.co/DjEXU2DYgr
— (((AG))) (@AGHamilton29) May 9, 2018
Why is CNN interviewing the guy in third place at all, much less asking him if he plans on running as an independent?
— BT (@back_ttys) May 9, 2018
To be fair, the responsibility of voting always lies with the voters, and the voters’ choice is theirs alone. This cannot be blamed on the media. To the credit of voters in West Virginia, last night they chose someone else.
Nevertheless, it remains frustrating that certain members of the media choose to elevate the worst members of the Republican Party and to give them unwarranted and undeserved attention and media time. The story last night and today continues to be on the person who didn’t win, rather than Patrick Morrisey, who will actually face off against Joe Manchin in November.
However, Blankenship’s loss does raise many questions, for both members of the media and for members of the Republican party to ask themselves.
Recent polls that showed a Blankenship surge. Where did these polls come from? Who was the outlet conducting the polls?
Why was so much attention paid to the candidate who was beaten so soundly last night?
And why do so many people like Blankenship want to run as Republicans, and should they be able to?
The views expressed here are those of the author and do not represent those of any other individual or entity. Follow Sarah on Twitter: @sarahmquinlan.