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Offbeat GOP frets over West Virginia as 4 states decide primaries

10:31  08 may  2018
10:31  08 may  2018 Source:   msn.com

Republicans vie to challenge vulnerable Manchin, Donnelly in looming primary battles

  Republicans vie to challenge vulnerable Manchin, Donnelly in looming primary battles Republicans hope that four primaries in the coming weeks will yield the kind of top-tier candidates good enough to beat at least a couple vulnerable-but-seasoned Democratic incumbents and solidify the GOP’s Senate majority. But outsider candidates and negative campaigns in two high-value targets -- Indiana and West Virginia -- threaten to foil GOP plans. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has been a top GOP target since at least Nov. 2016 -- when Republican Donald Trump won the state with 68.7 percent of the vote.Many voters have said they were resentful about what they called the Obama administration’s “war on coal.

On Tuesday, West Virginia will join Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio in hosting primary elections in states Trump carried in 2016. Voters in the heart of Trump country are ready to decide the fate of Don Blankenship, a brash West Virginia businessman and GOP outsider with a checkered past who

Voters in the heart of Trump country are ready to decide the fate of Don Blankenship, a brash West Virginia businessman and GOP outsider with a checkered past who is testing the appeal of President Donald Trump's outsider playbook in one of the nation's premiere U.S. Senate

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2018, file photo, former Massey CEO and West Virginia Republican Senatorial candidate, Don Blankenship, speaks during a town hall to kick off his campaign in Logan, W.Va. Voters in the heart of Trump country are ready to decide the fate of Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship, a brash businessman with a checkered past who’s testing the appeal of President Donald Trump’s outsider playbook in one of the nation’s premiere midterm contests. The West Virginia primary comes as voters across four states decide primary elections Tuesday in states Trump carried in 2016. In most cases, the candidates are jockeying to be seen as the most loyal to the president. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)© The Associated Press FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2018, file photo, former Massey CEO and West Virginia Republican Senatorial candidate, Don Blankenship, speaks during a town hall to kick off his campaign in Logan, W.Va. Voters in the heart of Trump country are ready to decide the fate of Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship, a brash businessman with a checkered past who’s testing the appeal of President Donald Trump’s outsider playbook in one of the nation’s premiere midterm contests. The West Virginia primary comes as voters across four states decide primary elections Tuesday in states Trump carried in 2016. In most cases, the candidates are jockeying to be seen as the most loyal to the president. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Voters in the heart of Trump country are ready to decide the fate of Don Blankenship, a brash West Virginia businessman and GOP outsider with a checkered past who is testing the appeal of President Donald Trump's outsider playbook in one of the nation's premiere U.S. Senate contests.

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“ West Virginia will send the swamp a message: No one, and I mean no one, will tell us how to vote,” Blankenship declared. On Tuesday, West Virginia will join Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio in hosting primary elections in states Trump carried in 2016. The Republican contests largely feature

Ahead of West Virginia ’s GOP primary Tuesday to unseat Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, each of the top three candidates has claimed to be the closest in ideology to Trump. Meanwhile, Don Blankenship has taken direct aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell -- calling him “Cocaine Mitch.”

The stakes are high for a Republican Party bracing for major losses in this fall's midterm elections. A victory on Tuesday for Blankenship, an ex-convict who has run racially charged ads, could cost Republicans a Senate seat come November. But the anti-establishment fervor unleashed by Trump's 2016 campaign has proved difficult for GOP leaders to rein in.

On the eve of West Virginia's Senate primary election, Trump himself warned on Twitter that a Blankenship win would destroy Republicans' chance of defeating Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in November.

Blankenship "can't win the General Election in your State...No way!" the president wrote of the retired coal executive, who was released from prison last year for his role in the deadliest U.S. mine disaster in four decades.

Party Primaries Are a Problem for the GOP

  Party Primaries Are a Problem for the GOP Ideologically motivated primary voters keep nominating dud candidates who can’t win general elections.Tomorrow, Republican voters in West Virginia head to the polls to decide who will be the party’s nominee in the Senate contest against Senator Joe Manchin. Manchin is a longtime figure in the Mountain State, but as a Democrat in one of the most pro-Trump places in the country, he is vulnerable.

GOP frets over West Virginia as 4 states decide primaries . Voters in the heart of Trump country are ready to decide the fate of Don Blankenship, a A wave of Democratic victories ignited a ferocious debate across the GOP over whether Trump's polarizing agenda is jeopardizing the party's grip on

GOP frets over West Virginia as 4 states decide primaries . GOP leaders are hoping Don Blankenship will not win the West Virginia Republican Senate primary , as he may hurt their chances of beating Democrat Joe Manchin.

Firing back at the Republican president, Blankenship described himself as "Trumpier than Trump" as he shrugged off Trump's call for local Republicans to support one of his two opponents.

"West Virginia will send the swamp a message: No one, and I mean no one, will tell us how to vote," Blankenship declared.

On Tuesday, West Virginia will join Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio in hosting primary elections in states Trump carried in 2016. The Republican contests largely feature candidates jockeying to be seen as the most conservative, the most anti-Washington and the most loyal to the president.

In Indiana, Republicans will pick from among three Senate candidates who have spent much of the race praising Trump and bashing one another. The winner will take on another vulnerable Democrat, Sen. Joe Donnelly, this fall.

In Ohio, Republicans will likely nominate a more conservative candidate than outgoing GOP Gov. John Kasich, a 2016 presidential candidate and frequent Trump critic. Even Kasich's former running mate, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, has pledged to unwind some of Kasich's centrist policies, including the expansion of the Medicaid government insurance program.

Races to watch in West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina primaries

  Races to watch in West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina primaries WEST VIRGINIA Polls close: 7:30 p.m. ET Key races: GOP Senate Primary, 3rd House District Blankenship defiant - AP: “A defiant Don Blankenship fired back after President Donald Trump urged West Virginia voters to support opponents of the former coal executive – and former convict – in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. Blankenship said in a statement: ‘I will win the primary and I will beat Joe Manchin. Neither of my opponents can beat Joe Manchin without my support, but I will beat Joe Manchin even without the support of the establishment.

GOP frets over West Virginia as 4 states decide primaries . Yet that posturing seems to mollify his political base at home, as seen in this week's Republican primaries in the three Rust Belt states of West Virginia , Ohio and Indiana, where his policy of draining what he casts as the swamp in

GOP frets over West Virginia as 4 states decide primaries . GOP leaders are hoping Don Blankenship will not win the West Virginia Republican Senate primary , as he may hurt their chances of beating Democrat Joe Manchin.

Ohio also features primary elections in both parties to decide the candidates for an August special election to replace GOP Rep. Pat Tiberi, who resigned earlier in the year.

North Carolina Republicans will weigh in on the fate of Republican Rep. Robert Pittenger, who faces a primary challenger who almost upset him two years ago. Pittenger features Trump prominently in his campaign, while challenger Mark Harris, a prominent Charlotte pastor, has called Pittenger a creature of Washington who refuses to help Trump "drain that swamp."

Yet none of Tuesday's contests is expected to have more impact on the 2018 midterm landscape than West Virginia.

Blankenship has embraced Trump's tactics — casting himself as a victim of government persecution and seizing on xenophobia, if not racism — to stand out in a crowded Republican field that includes state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Republican congressman Evan Jenkins.

Republicans have long seen the state as a prime opportunity to expand the party's two-seat majority in the Senate by defeating Manchin. On paper at least, the GOP prospects look good: No state gave Trump a larger margin of victory than West Virginia, where Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton by 42 points.

GOP outsider tests Trump's influence in WV Senate contest

  GOP outsider tests Trump's influence in WV Senate contest West Virginia Republicans were deciding Tuesday between a brash GOP outsider who embraced Donald Trump's political playbook — but was opposed by the president — and a more traditional party candidate to take on vulnerable Democrat Joe Manchin this fall in an election both parties view as key to Senate control.TrumpLoad Error

Yet Republicans across Washington are convinced that Blankenship, an unapologetic conservative who lives part time near Las Vegas, cannot defeat Manchin.

In addition to Trump's warning, the head of the Senate Republican campaign arm has highlighted Blankenship's criminal history. And a group allied with the national GOP, known as Mountain Families PAC, has spent more than $1.2 million in attack ads against Blankenship in recent weeks.

The retired businessman was released from prison less than a year ago for his role in a 2010 mine explosion that left 29 men dead. Blankenship led the company that owned the mine and was sentenced to a year in prison for conspiring to break safety laws, a misdemeanor.

He has repeatedly blamed government regulators for the disaster, casting himself as the victim of an overzealous Obama-era Justice Department — an argument Trump regularly uses to dismiss federal agents investigating his campaign's ties to Russia.

Blankenship has used race and ethnicity to appeal to supporters in the campaign's final days, just as Trump did throughout his campaign.

The Senate candidate took aim at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in an ad claiming that McConnell has created jobs for "China people" and that his "China family" has given him millions of dollars. McConnell's wife is U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan.

Blankenship also called McConnell "Cocaine Mitch" in a previous ad. That reference stems from a 2014 magazine article alleging drugs were found aboard a commercial cargo ship owned by Chao's family.

Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, a frequent Trump critic, suggested that Blankenship presents a moral problem for the GOP, not just a political one. He said he's ready to donate to Manchin's campaign if Blankenship becomes the GOP nominee.

"You get somebody like that in the Senate, you might get us one seat but you lose your soul," Flake said.

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Peoples reported from New York. Associated Press writer Lisa Mascaro in Washington contributed to this report.

Homeland Security, Pennsylvania officials discuss election security on primary day .
The meeting underscores an ongoing effort by Homeland Security to build relationships with states and offer them security assistance following Russian interference in the 2016 vote.(Pictured) Rick Colyer holds a sticker after placing his vote at the Durham County Library North Regional in Durham, N.C., on May 8.

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