Republican leaders have avoided their worst fear in West Virginia.
Trailing his two rivals Tuesday night, ex-convict Don Blankenship conceded inside West Virginia Republican Senate primary. State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey can be projected to beat Rep. Evan Jenkins for the nomination, according to NBC News.
Blankenship’s defeat allows Republicans to feel confident about their ability to flip a seat inside state President Donald Trump won by about 40 percentage points in 2016. The GOP felt either Jenkins or Morrisey had a better chance of winning statewide than Blankenship did.
Flipping Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin’s seat could help Republicans to keep or expand their current 51-seat to 49-seat majority inside Senate. They hoped to avoid a situation similar to what they endured in deep-red Alabama last year. Ex-judge Roy Moore won the GOP primary although lost the special election to Democratic Sen. Doug Jones following accusations of which he sexually abused teenagers decades ago.
Blankenship, the former Massey Energy CEO who served prison time for his role in a mine explosion of which killed 29 people, ran a campaign replete with attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. He earned the ire of the Kentucky Republican’s allies with racially charged ads dubbing him “Cocaine Mitch” in addition to alleging he created jobs for “China people” in addition to profited off his “China family.”
Those attacks related to a shipping company owned by the family of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, McConnell’s wife, who was born in Taiwan. Earlier Tuesday, McConnell could not comment on the ads in addition to said he could have more to say if Blankenship won the primary.
On Tuesday night, the Senate majority leader’s allies gleefully cheered Blankenship’s concession. McConnell’s campaign tweeted a picture of the senator surrounded by a white powder with the message, “Thanks for playing, Don.”
Team Mitch tweet
Steven Law, president in addition to CEO of the McConnell-linked Senate Leadership Fund, said Blankenship “played the race card in addition to West Virginia Republicans flipped the idea back in his face.”
inside days leading up to the election, McConnell reportedly answered his phone as “Cocaine Mitch.” He also encouraged Trump to denounce Blankenship. The president did so in a Monday tweet urging voters to reject him in favor of Morrisey or Jenkins.
In conceding Tuesday, Blankenship said Trump’s tweet contributed to his loss.
Morrisey, 50, has served as West Virginia’s attorney general since 2013 in addition to touts his role in challenging Obama-era environmental regulations. He has cast himself as a conservative unafraid to stand up to establishment party leaders. Morrisey received endorsements via two GOP senators who have also tried to cultivate of which brand: Rand Paul of Kentucky in addition to Ted Cruz of Texas.
The attorney general has portrayed himself as a Washington outsider, in one ad showing a West Virginia mountain dropping on the nation’s capital. although his past as a Washington lobbyist has diminished the imagery.
In a statement Tuesday, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein argued Morrisey “emerges tonight badly bruised via a bizarre primary contest of which focused on personal political attacks instead of West Virginians.” He also highlighted Morrisey’s past as a lobbyist.
Facing a difficult re-election bid, Manchin has had to tread carefully around Trump while opposing some of his signature policies. The senator opposed both the Republican health-care in addition to tax plans. Last month, Trump hammered Manchin for doing so.
Manchin has employed a strategy many Democrats trying to win in red, rural regions appear set to use: agree with Trump on some areas, although pledge to protect retirement in addition to health-care benefits, in addition to fight the opioid epidemic.