West Virginia’s top two Republicans have yet to acknowledge that Joe Biden has won the 2020 presidential election.
Senator Shelley Moore Capito has been mum, while Governor Jim Justice has continued to express support for President Trump and to call for patience while challenges to some of the results are being sorted out.
Obviously neither Capito nor Justice is under any obligation to congratulate Biden or even publicly accept the outcome of the election. If Justice and Capito are too quick to accept Biden, they risk alienating tens of thousands of West Virginia voters who are deeply disappointed by the outcome.
Justice considers Trump a close friend and Trump affectionately refers to the Governor as “Big Jim.” Justice says the Trump presidency has been beneficial to the state and he hates the thought of losing his direct line to his pal in the Oval Office.
Remember, Justice timed his switch from the Democratic to the Republican Party in 2017 to coincide with an appearance by Trump in Huntington.
Justice reiterated on Talkline Wednesday that Trump is within his right to raise legal challenges and to fight for every vote. “I don’t know why we’re in such a big hurry,” he said. “There are many things that are happening in the courts and within all our systems to make sure we had a legal election.”
However, he did add that every day that goes by, “it gets closer to a Joe Biden presidency.”
As for Capito, her office has said only that she has not yet made a public comment on the presidential election. That is not terribly surprising. Capito is politically savvy and notoriously cautious. She is loyal to the Mitch McConnell leadership team and is unlikely to get out ahead of the Majority Leader on the issue.
But at some point, barring an unexpected outcome from the many allegations by the Trump campaign, Joe Biden will be certified as the President-elect, and within weeks will be sworn into office. It is important for West Virginia that the state’s top elected officials have a working relationship with the new administration.
Remember the Barack Obama years? West Virginia’s political leaders—Republicans and even some Democrats—were at odds with the Obama administration, particularly on energy and environmental policies. As a result, West Virginia representatives were persona non grata at the White House.
That does not mean West Virginia’s leaders need to kowtow to Biden and company, but they should take to heart Biden’s pledge to be a unifier who is president of red and blue states alike, and establish a working relationship.
Over the next four years, Justice will need help for our state from Biden’s administration for one thing or another. The same goes for Capito on issues like expanding broadband or national gas storage infrastructure. When those and other issues arise, it will be essential that the White House takes their calls.