On Monday, President Donald Trump urged West Virginia voters to oppose Republican Don Blankenship and to instead vote for one of his rivals in the Senate primary in the state this week.
“To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference. Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State…No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!” tweeted Trump.
Blankenship is a former coal industry executive with a criminal past. He spent a year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety laws and is linked to the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in West Virginia where 29 workers were killed. His parol ends Wednesday, the day after West Virginia’s primaries.
Trump warned “remember Alabama” after Republican Roy Moore’s scandal attributed to his loss to Democrat Doug Jones last year.
“I hate to lose. So I’m gonna go out on a limb here and ask the people of West Virginia to make a wise decision and reject Blankenship! No more fumbles like Alabama. We need to win in November. #wv #wvpol,” tweeted Donald Trump Jr.
Blankenship’s criminal background could present challenges if elected to run in the midterm elections.
“My campaign will be informing his probation officer in Nevada about this issue right away, to determine if this refusal to comply with federal law violates the terms of his supervised release,” said Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. “West Virginians don’t need a candidate who may not even be able to campaign in the state against Joe Manchin.”
Morrisey’s campaign is using robocalls with messaging like, “Convicted criminal Don Blankenship didn’t vote for President Trump and is a resident of Nevada, where he must report to his parole officer.”
But Blankenship is still optimistic about this week’s primary election.
“Neither of my opponents can beat Joe Manchin without my support, but I will beat Joe Manchin even without the support of the establishment,” said Blankenship. “… Tomorrow, West Virginia will send the swamp a message—no one, and I mean no one, will tell us how to vote. As some have said, I am Trumpier than Trump and this morning proves it.”
Even Morrisey sees Blankenship as a threat ever since the recent poll results.
“To be honest, I thought that West Virginians would see through the candidacy of Don Blankenship even more,” said Morrisey. “And it’s apparent over the last couple days — as he’s been moving up, getting very close in the polls — I think it’s in the public interest to be able to talk about this information.”
Morrisey pointed out on Sunday evening that according to recent polls, he was tied with Blankenship.
Rep. Evan Jenkins, on the other hand, focused more so on his endorsement from the president.
“Donald Trump this morning came out and supported my candidacy for the United States Senate,” said Jenkins. “He said vote for Evan Jenkins and I’ll leave it at that.”
Trump and GOP lawmakers are making a major push to secure more Senate seats.
“Ten Republicans will challenge Democrats in Trump states this November. In addition to West Virginia, Republicans will also choose two other Senate nominees Tuesday in crucial races: Indiana and Ohio — states Trump carried decisively. And each of those three primary campaigns has turned more pitched and acrimonious in the run-up to the vote, an early sign of ugly midterm fights ahead in states that will help determine which party controls the Senate for the next two years, writes Politico.
The Democrats have to defend least 10 current seats and pick up two more to take over control of the Senate, which won’t be easy.
Author’s note: Trump is getting more involved in the primary elections like West Virginia and for good reason. 35 Senate seats are up for election this year. 26 of these are held by Democrats and they will have to try to defend and two others they will have to win. So with a huge push, the odds are that the Democrats will lose some states.