Will Don Blankenship Do In West Virginia What Roy Moore Did In Alabama?

Republicans have a good chance at taking back a key Senate seat from Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin this year, but they worry a convicted coal baron may stand in their way.

President Donald Trump and Republican leaders are concerned about the West Virginia Senate GOP primary, as new internal polls show ex-con coal boss Don Blankenship, who spent a year in prison for mine safety violations that contributed to an explosion that killed 29 people, is leading the race against party-line Republicans Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Representative Evan Jenkins.

“We have a three-alarm fire in West Virginia,” Republican strategist Ford O’Connell told Newsweek. O’Connell, who worked on John McCain’s presidential campaign, said he believes that if Blankenship loses the primary this Tuesday, the race is the Republicans' to win.

The situation strikes a similar chord to Roy Moore’s successful Alabama senatorial primary campaign against incumbent Luther Strange and ultimate defeat to Democratic candidate Doug Jones last December. Like Moore, Blankenship has run a bizarre campaign focused on appealing to those who are tired of politics-as-usual by creating a chasm between himself and establishment Republicans.

“Democrats learned this deal with Todd Akin in 2012, and they’re trying to repeat it. If Blankenship wins the Republican nomination, it will take an easy pickup win from the GOP. The race will be over and Democrats will be able to narrow the gap in Senate,” said O'Connell, the Republican strategist.

Both O’Connell and Trippi said this primary split has been a detriment to Republican Senate elections and Democratic House elections, where far-left candidates have been widening the field. “In the Senate, it’s amazing how much more the Democrats are able to put aside their differences,” said O’Connell. “But in the House, Republicans have been able to coordinate primaries very well.”  

Read more from Nicole Goodkind at Newsweek

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