From Fox News
For those of you who can’t get enough “Trump loves me best” from WV’s senatorial candidates, Fox News will host a nationally televised debate at 6:30 PM tonight in Morgantown. From MetroNews:
Three of West Virginia’s six Republican U.S. Senate candidates will be on a national stage on Tuesday night, one week ahead of the May primary election.
Fox News Channel is launching its “America’s Election Headquarters” 2018 midterm election series with a debate involving 3rd District Congressman Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.), state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and former Massey CEO Don Blankenship.
Why those three?
Jenkins, Morrisey and Blankenship all polled above a 10 percent threshold to qualify for participation with Jenkins garnering 25 percent in the Fox poll, 21 percent for Morrisey and 16 percent for Blankenship.
It’s interesting how Fox found a way to eliminate half the field. Fox would probably defend itself by noting that the eventual nominee will likely come from those three. These types of reactions tend to render results that are self-fulfilling, however. How can a lesser-known candidate get to be better-known if he/she is denied media exposure? I realize that including all candidates lessens time devoted to each candidate, but I don’t think it should be up to a media entity to decide who is and who isn’t a serious candidate. (And yes, I know that the Wheeling papers election coverage does this all the time. I’ll give them credit, however, for including all Republican candidates in last week’s debate.)
Last night’s debate
With no Intelligencer coverage, Northern Panhandle residents might be surprised to learn that there was a senatorial debate last night in Charleston. From this morning’s front page of the Charleston Gazette-Mail:
All of the Republicans running for the party nomination, minus Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., debated at West Virginia State University.
An explanation for their absence?
Jenkins’ campaign manager, Joe Reidy, read a letter on the Congressman’s behalf before the debate. Delegate Dianna Graves, R-Kanawha, did the same for Morrisey.
Reidy said Jenkins could not attend the event because of an interview with FOX News, which is hosting a debate in Morgantown on Tuesday. A Morrisey spokeswoman could not be reached.
According to the G-M, the absent candidates “quickly became the punching bags of their counterparts in attendance.” (Good for them!) The debate was hosted by the National Rifle Association Collegiate Coalition and the paper reports that, not surprisingly, a number of questions focused on guns.
An explanation for the Intelligencer’s non-coverage? My hunch is that the Intelligencer did not consider it a real debate because Jenkins and Morrisey were not there. (This reminds me of four years ago when Shelley Moore Capito didn’t show for a later senatorial debate because the organizers included all of the candidates that were running. Despite coverage from WV Public Broadcasting and other West Virginia media, not a single one of Ogden's West Virginia papers mentioned, let alone reported, the debate. See here.)
Tonight’s debate-watching game: Trump References by Candidate
I’ve dropped Candidate Bingo in favor of a simpler, but busier, game: Trump References by Candidate. Which candidate will say “Trump” most often? Las Vegas is not posting this one and so I’ll create my own betting line -- I’ll make Jenkins the very slight favorite at odds of 9 to 5 and put both Morrisey and Blankenship at 2 to 1. I’ll also put the over/under on total Trump mentions for all three candidates at 100. As with Candidate Bingo, this should not be used as a drinking game. Be sure to bet responsibly. Results will be posted later.
Post debate update
Jenkins used the word "Trump" 13 times to Morrisey's 4 times. If you include references to "the president," Jenkins's gets to 15 while Morrisey jumps to 13. (Surprising for me is that I did not hear Blankenship use either word.) Jenkins wins the bet regardless of how you count them. The total for all candidates was significantly under 100. (With the exception of Jenkins reaction to the possibility of impeachment proceedings, the candidates did not push their allegiance to all things Trump.) Instead, and I didn't keep an exact count, it seemed like "Obama" (not positively) and the phrase "West Virginia values" were spoken almost as much as "Trump."
I thought that the Fox moderators, Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum, asked good questions although I would have liked them to have pressed the candidates more on answering the question.
By allowing each to respond to comments by the other, the moderators allowed for far too much name-calling between Morrisey and Jenkins.
Both Morrisey and Jenkins looked and sounded like politicians. (Especially Jenkins.) Because he didn't get directly involved in their inter-party fight and he didn't sound like either of them, Blankenship was probably the winner here especially among anti-establishment Trump supporters. As a liberal Democrat, my opinion should not count for much but it would not surprise me if Blankenship wins the Republican primary next Tuesday.