- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 13, 2018

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Democrats continue to insist in spite of a complete lack of evidence that the Russian government, Russian corporations or at least individual Russians with ties to Vladimir Putin colluded with the Trump campaign to affect the outcome of the 2016 presidential campaign, thereby denying their candidate the White House.

Their own record of colluding both with foreign powers and trying to manipulate Republican primary voters to come up with candidates weak enough to beat, however, is one that Democrats and their friends in the media ignore.

The fact that the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and his buddy John Kerry appealed directly to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov for Kremlin help in their effort to deny Ronald Reagan a second term as president in 1984 doesn’t bother them. And reporters rarely mention it in expressing horror at the possibility that Mr. Putin’s Russia might have interfered in the 2016 election while openly colluding with Democrats trying to control the outcome of Republican primaries this year.

This became clear Tuesday evening as the results of the West Virginia Republican Senate primary began coming in. The contest featured a Republican congressman, the state’s attorney general and a former coal industry executive who served time in prison after what the courts viewed as a preventable accident at one of his mines left 29 dead.

Congressman Evan Jenkins and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey were both politically experienced with solid records, while Don Blankenship had only a big mouth and a lot of money to bring to the table.

It was little wonder that public polls consistently had Mr. Blankenship in third place with 16 percent to 18 percent of the vote, while Mr. Jenkins and Mr. Morrisey battled for the lead.

But as primary day approached the media began reporting that the race was closing and that Mr. Blankenship might indeed beat out his rivals, seize the nomination and presumably go on to become an embarrassment, allowing incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin to coast to re-election.

Republicans in Washington panicked and President Trump himself let it be known that nominating Mr. Blankenship would be just the sort of disaster that could cost Republicans control of the Senate.

Politico almost gleefully headlined its May 5 report on the supposed surge: “Blankenship Surging on eve of West Virginia Primary.” The publication based its story on supposed “internal polls” that their reporter had supposedly seen, but which were never made public.

Mr. Blankenship would indeed have been an embarrassment had he been nominated. His attacks on Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his wife, Elaine Chao, were unconscionable and there can be little doubt that West Virginia voters would have swallowed hard and re-elected the increasingly unpopular Mr. Manchin to avoid the derision that would follow Mr. Blankenship’s election.

So panic was rational if the reports of the Blankenship surge were true. The evidence suggests not only that they weren’t but they were a calculated attempt by Democrats and their media allies to stir things up within the primary electorate, get Republicans to waste a lot of money to stop something that wasn’t happening and perhaps even light a fire under the foundering Blankenship campaign that might transform fantasy into reality.

They did get Washington-based Republicans to spend more money than they needed to, but West Virginia voters proved far more difficult to manipulate than they hoped; in fact, there is no real evidence that many of them considered Mr. Blankenship worth supporting. They didn’t come home at the last minute to support a credible challenger to Mr. Manchin; they never left.

Some analysts like pollster Scott Rasmussen and Virginia analyst Larry Sabato saw through the whole thing as actual voters began showing up at the polls. Mr. Sabato described the “surge” as based on “rumors” rather than evidence and concluded that “Blankenship probably was never as serious a contender for the nomination as he might have seemed.”

Mr. Rasmussen pointed out that public polls consistently had Mr. Blankenship finishing third. A Fox News poll taken about two weeks before the primary had him at 16 percent, which was pretty close to the 19 percent of the vote he actually got last Tuesday.

Mr. Rasmussen says he believes the fantasies the Democrats were putting out got traction because liberals, Washington experts and the elite media believe West Virginia voters would go for an outrageous character like Mr. Blankenship; after all, they voted for Donald Trump.

The fact that Democrats and their media allies continue to underestimate the intelligence and judgment of those who don’t ascribe to their beliefs and prejudices says all one needs to know about them.

• David A. Keene is an editor at large for The Washington Times.


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