by Jeffery Rendall
Establishment Republicans in the Washington swamp must have waited with bated breath on Tuesday night as they viewed the primary election results ticking slowly across the bottom of their TV news screens.
Of particular concern for charter members of the capital bog was the GOP contest in West Virginia, where avowed anti-Mitch McConnell (and seemingly outwardly bigoted) oddball Don Blakenship was running surprisingly strongly in recent polls, suggesting another headache could be in the works for a DC ruling class that had just gotten over the aftermath of having to root against a fellow Republican in last year’s Alabama special election.
This time the establishment came out on top – or at least they didn’t lose big – and conservatives should be glad. Blankenship ended up falling to the conservatives’ favorite in West Virginia, perhaps paving the way for a Republican senate seat pick-up (Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin is vulnerable) in November.
There was good news for conservatives elsewhere as well.
W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner reported on Wednesday, “If Tuesday night’s Republican primary winners were not like [Alabama’s Judge Roy] Moore, they were not exactly rejecting Trump either. Rep. Jim Renacci, who won the GOP primary to challenge Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown, was Trump’s handpicked candidate.
“Businessman and former state Rep. Mike Braun easily won the Republican nomination to take on Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., running on a pro-Trump platform. Braun positioned himself as an outsider and blasted the two sitting members of Congress he was running against as the ‘Swamp Brothers,’ in reference to Trump’s ‘Drain the Swamp’ mantra concerning D.C.
“West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the Republican who won the senatorial primary while Blankenship imploded, has defended Trump from special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Both he and second-place finisher Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W. Va., went out of their way to appear with Trump in the state last month.”
The gist of Antle’s article was Tuesday’s senate winners were just close enough to Trump to merit his favor yet weren’t exactly considered outcasts like Blankenship and Moore, definite interlopers who vowed (if elected) to come to Washington to shake things up and do everything in their new powers to make the life of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell extremely…difficult.
For those of us who spent several months late last year arguing in favor of sending Moore to the senate it’s somewhat insulting to have the Alabamian compared with Don Blankenship. The latter is a convicted felon who served prison time for his role in creating conditions that led to the deaths of over two dozen miners. In contrast Moore was an extremely outspoken conservative who took a number of principled stands that didn’t gel with the Washington swamp inhabitants.
Conservatives now recognize Moore wasn’t the best choice for grassroots groups in Alabama (Congressman Mo Brooks, another solid conservative, would have held the seat easily if he hadn’t been utterly destroyed by the establishment before the GOP primary that Moore won), but there’s no reason to insinuate the former state Supreme Court Chief Justice (Moore) was akin to a criminal like Blankenship. (And no, there’s no need to re-litigate all the unsubstantiated claims of Moore’s alleged fondness for underage girls 40 years ago. Been there, done that.)
So the West Virginia result was a win-win for all concerned. To his credit, Morrisey had an impressive number of conservative organizations backing him, including the Senate Conservatives Fund, Citizens United Political Victory Fund, Family Research Council, Great America Alliance, Gun Owners of America, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, West Virginia Citizen’s Defense League, West Virginia Farm Bureau, West Virginians for Life, FreedomWorks PAC, West Virginians for Life PAC, the Editors of National Review, the American Conservative Union, 32 members of the West Virginia state Legislature and Senator Ted Cruz.
In other words, it’s terrific that the Republican candidate opposing Democrat Joe Manchin in six months is supported by a who’s who of the conservative movement.
Indiana’s Mike Braun was another candidate strongly backed by national conservatives. Braun won by campaigning against the Washington swamp and pitting the establishment candidates in the race against each other. Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examiner wrote, “How did Braun win a chance to challenge Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country? He saw a populist opportunity and he exploited ugly establishment infighting.
“The race was nasty from the beginning, as Messer and Rokita bludgeoned each other during the early months. And when Messer and Rokita were going for each other’s throats, Braun knocked their heads together.
“In what might be one of the most effective ads of 2018, the outsider took on both, simultaneously highlighting how uncanny their similarities are and dubbing them ‘the swamp brothers.’ The two don’t just look alike. They vote the same way, Braun argued, labeling them individually ‘Luke the liberal’ and ‘Todd the Fraud.’ Blasted over airwaves repeatedly across the state, that 30-second spot was brutal, catchy, and effective.”
Wegmann pointed out that if the ruling class had only consolidated around either Messer or Rokita they might have been able to push one of them over the finish line since the two combined to win 60 percent of the primary vote. But who’s to say if one of them had pulled out that his supporters might have been so embittered that they’d have moved to Braun instead?
For as much as the media harps on President Trump’s lukewarm approval ratings they’re feigning astonishment that so many conservative Republican candidates are flocking like pigeons to Trump’s banner in order to distinguish themselves from their would-be establishment opponents. Wegmann reported that Braun was (up until recently) a registered Democrat and now he’s challenging a so-called “moderate” Democrat (Sen. Joe Donnelly) in a very red Trump-won state.
Wasn’t Donald Trump a Democrat not too long ago as well? A tiger can’t change his stripes but a human being with a shred of common sense can realize the Democrat party no longer represents their interests. Such was certainly the case for Braun, a successful business owner who must have witnessed first-hand how Democrat governance works. Anyone who prepares a payroll or purchases healthcare for employees knows how tangled the government web is. Desiring to extricate oneself from the purveyors of failure is commendable, not a cautionary tale.
And yes, Donnelly may have been one of a token few Democrats to vote to confirm Justice Neil Gorsuch but he’s been on the wrong side of virtually every legislative issue conservatives hold dear including the drive to repeal Obamacare and of course, the Republican tax cut/reform bill. When these legislative issues dominated the news cycles last year there wasn’t much media chatter about Democrats and their lack of “bipartisan” cooperation. You mean to tell us not one Democrat could find anything in those GOP proposals that they liked?
Donnelly is a Chuck Schumer stooge just like every other Democrat senator. Mike Braun may have recently voted for Democrats but that’s not his current orientation. Give the guy some credit…maybe he saw the light.
The real question is will the party establishment now support Braun in his effort to secure a very winnable seat — or will they give him the Roy Moore treatment and join with Democrats to smear the Republican nominee until it’s impossible for him to prevail? How many “accusers” are waiting in the media wings to be “outraged” at something Braun says in an interview or during a debate? In 2012 Indiana’s Richard Mourdock suffered from silent banishment from the national GOP establishment for making comments about his religious and pro-life beliefs.
Mourdock lost to Donnelly by almost six points while Mitt Romney carried Indiana by a little over 10. Can anyone credibly deny the GOP establishment’s snub of its own candidate didn’t make all the difference there? For what it’s worth I believe Mourdock would have made a terrific conservative senator in the mold of Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. It’s a shame he never got the chance to prove it.
Will the elites sabotage Braun too? Would Vice President Mike Pence step-in in such a circumstance? Pence will be busy campaigning in the state – after all, his older brother will be on the ballot.
Philip Wegmann of the Washington Examiner reported, “A Democrat hasn’t represented the district since the early days of former President Ronald Reagan’s administration, meaning that the general election is likely a formality and the elder [Greg] Pence is almost definitely a shoe-in. Vice President Pence held it for over a decade before deciding to run for governor in 2013. His older brother might hold it long, long after the current administration clears out of the White House.
“This makes the 6th Congressional District something of a political heirloom, a keepsake not unlike the ones that can be found inside the Pence family antique mall. And this little victory could be enough to earn them junior membership into the political country club inhabited by the likes of the Bush and Clinton families.”
Perish the thought – another political dynasty – the major difference being the Pence family are principled conservatives and you could make a good argument they’re anti-establishment as well. Pence had the respect and admiration of movement conservatives well before he agreed to be Donald Trump’s running mate. One can only assume brother Greg’s political views are similar to the vice president’s. If that’s the case a conservative “dynasty” wouldn’t be all that unwelcome, would it?
The Kennedys, the Bushes and Clintons were all blueblood ruling class types from the beginning. Even when Bill was a twangy skirt-chasing governor from Arkansas he still had the favor of the party poohbahs.
The Clinton family is still arguably the preeminent establishment force for the Democrats. Chardonnay-chugging Crooked Hillary is a headline-generating machine as she travels the world in search of an explanation (for losing) that has staying power with someone other than her liberal/socialist true believers.
And Bill? He’s getting Monica Lewinsky disinvited from public forums. Katelyn Caralle of the Washington Examiner reported, “Town & Country magazine apologized to Monica Lewinsky on Thursday after Lewinsky said she was uninvited from the magazine’s annual philanthropic summit after former President Bill Clinton accepted his invitation to the same event.
“’We apologize to Ms. Lewinsky and regret the way the situation was handled,’ the magazine tweeted Thursday.
“Lewinsky, famous for her affair with Clinton that led to his impeachment when he lied about it under oath, tweeted Wednesday that she did not want to be invited to events just to be uninvited after it becomes known that Clinton is also attending.”
Can’t you imagine Bill and Monica together again in the same room?! The media would salivate to cover the potential confrontation all these years later. What would Monica say? What would Bill say? Would she wear a red MAGA hat? Would Hillary show up? The tension would be so thick you could cut it with a knife.
Unfortunately it doesn’t look like we’ll ever get the chance to find out. ‘Tis a shame.
As would be expected Tuesday’s GOP primary election results were a mixed bag for both conservatives and the establishment. Several good people ended up winning – now the hard work begins for grassroots groups to get these candidates elected and headed to the swamp next year.