President Donald Trump implored Republicans in West Virginia not to vote for Donald Blankenship in that state's Republican primary on Tuesday, saying the candidate - a coal executive who served prison time for a safety violation that killed 29 miners - can't win the general election. Trump said in a tweet comparing Blankenship to Roy Moore's failed Senate bid in Alabama. He initially endorsed the establishment candidate, then-Sen.
"I'm honored that President Trump encouraged voters to cast their vote for me to Make America Great Again", he said in a statement. On a West Virginia radio show, he suggested that McConnell faces a conflict of interest because he's married to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan to Chinese parents.
No one, I guess, includes the President.
Blankenship has made his opposition to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. a centerpiece of the campaign in which he referred to McConnell's in-laws as his "China family" in a recent campaign ad.
Republican strategists feel that Mr. Manchin supplies them of the best chances to reclaim a Democratic seat, but this the conservative Democrat and former governor will easily acquire re election if Mr. Blankenship could be the nominee.
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A trio of incumbent Democratic senators representing states Donald Trump captured in the 2016 presidential election, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Sherrod Brown of OH and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, will finally have a Republican opponent after Tuesday.
U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey are Blankenship's rivals in the West Virginia race, one of several primary contests where Republicans are wrestling over their allegiance to Trump.
"We have a three-alarm fire in West Virginia", Republican strategist Ford O'Connell told Newsweek. One of the Donkey Party's super-PACS, Duty and Country, has spent $1.8 million trying to take out Evan Jenkins in the primary - a move that has likely boosted Blankenship's prospects.
"Don Blankenship, now running for Senate, can't win the General Election in your State". He has, for example, dubbed Mr. McConnell "Cocaine Mitch", a reference to claims that drugs were found on a ship owned by Mr. McConnell's father-in-law.
Both the Morrisey and Jenkins campaigns reportedly have internal polling showing Mr. Blankenship with a small lead.
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"Todd Rokita puts on a MAGA hat, he runs around the state, but on the tough votes...he's against President Trump", GOP Rep. Luke Messer said of his Republican House colleague Rokita in a debate last month.
"No, I'm realistic", Trump Jr. replied.
"No more fumbles like Alabama", he wrote.
Indeed, Mr. Blankenship's rising poll numbers have coincided with an increasing number of highly inflammatory statements and personal attacks on powerful figures such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Jeff Flake, a frequent Trump critic and someone mentioned as a possible 3rd party candidate for president in 2020, hit Trump for that mentality in a tweet Monday.
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