Over the past couple of months, I've been keeping a list of big-name Republicans who are supporting Hillary Clinton this fall. It has become a big list — a reflection of the deep concern among some establishment Republicans about Donald Trump.
Quite frankly, there is no list. There is no real movement among big-name Democrats who back Trump.
But there is now at least one who, even though he hasn't backed Trump, says he won't back Clinton, either: The Democratic nominee for governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice. He's the billionaire owner of the Greenbrier Resort, and he says he can't back Clinton because of her coal policies.
"I cannot be a supporter of Hillary Clinton,” Justice told Fix friend Hoppy Kercheval's "Talkline" radio show on Monday. “The reason I can’t be is her position on coal is diametrically, completely wrong in many, many different ways.”
Justice did not say whether he supports Trump, but he appears to be the first big-name Democratic candidate to say 'no thanks' to Clinton. His comments come less than a week after New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, the Democratic nominee for Senate in a hotly contested race, declined to vouch for Clinton's honesty — three times.
One more and we'll have a trend, right? Well, not exactly.
Yes, there may be reluctance among some Democrats to align completely with an unpopular Clinton. Hassan's comments demonstrated that. But she has also endorsed Clinton; in that same interview, she made very clear the things she likes about Clinton. Her campaign later said she does think Clinton is honest.
Justice's decision not to back Clinton, meanwhile, owes almost completely to the state in which he's running. Clinton's previous comments about putting coal-miners out of business (she later said she misspoke) and support for the Obama administration's policies on climate change and coal are complete non-starters here.
Indeed, Justice isn't the first West Virginia Democrat to disown his party's standard-bearer. In 2012, Sen. Joe Manchin, who was facing reelection, said he was still deciding between President Obama and Mitt Romney. At the time, both Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and vulnerable longtime Rep. Nick Rahall also were facing voters and also declined to endorse the president. (Both won that year. Rahall lost reelection in 2014 in the quickly reddening state.)
Heck, a felon running in the 2012 West Virginia primary against Obama even took 41 percent of the vote (!).
The only public poll we have of West Virginia this year, meanwhile, shows Trump leading Clinton 57 percent to 30 percent — a far cry from his struggles in some other red states.
West Virginia is a state that went red late; conservative Democrats continued to dominate here even as the rest of the American South went Republican in the 1990s and 2000s. All of that makes it an odd combination of a clearly very conservative state and one in which the Democratic Party still has a pulse and can field candidates with a real shot at winning.
That combination, though, is thoroughly unique to West Virginia, where — as Manchin, Tomblin and Rahall showed — bucking the national Democratic nominee may be becoming pretty much par for course.