CHARLESTON, W.Va.—Donald Trump has delivered on a promised blowout win in the heart of Appalachian coal country, even drawing symbolic support from West Virginians who can’t vote for him until November.
Some conservative Democrats said they left the tops of their ballots blank in Tuesday’s primary, rebuking Hillary Clinton and instead pledging to support Trump in the fall.
The choice came down to coal, several voters said.
“I think Hillary was against the coal miners,” said 81-year-old Dorothy Burford, a Charleston retiree who left her Democratic ballot blank for president. “I think Trump has a better view on how we can get the coal miners back to work.”
Among those voting in West Virginia’s Democratic primary, about a third say they would support Trump over either Clinton or Bernie Sanders in November. That’s according to early findings from exit polls conducted for The Associated Press and television networks by Edison Research.
Trump, already the presumptive GOP nominee, anticipated the landslide in West Virginia and told people at a rally in Charleston last week that “you don’t even have to vote anymore.” He donned a hard hat from the West VirginiaCoal Association and said he would bring back coal mining jobs.
“Save your vote for the general election, OK? Forget this one,” Trump said. “The primary’s gone. Save your vote for the general election in November. And we’re going to show you something, and you’re going to show me something.”
On the Democratic side, polls have shown Sanders leading Clinton, who has struggled for support after saying during the campaign that her policies would put coal companies out of business. Both have plans to put tens of billions of dollars toward revitalizing struggling coal communities.