- There are four primary elections for the 2018 midterms on Tuesday, May 8, occurring in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina.
- The Republican Senate primaries in West Virginia and Indiana have become particularly heated contests, in which Trump-like candidates are doing all they can to come out on top.
- The GOP is desperately hoping to maintain its majority in Congress come fall, which is why there is so much chatter about these races in Washington.
There are four primary elections for the 2018 midterms on Tuesday, May 8, occurring in Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and North Carolina.
The Republican Senate primaries in West Virginia and Indiana have become particularly heated contests, in which Trump-like candidates are doing all they can to come out on top.
The GOP is desperately hoping to maintain its majority in Congress come fall, which is precisely why there is so much chatter about these races in Washington.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening with these bloody Republican Senate primaries.
In West Virginia, incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is widely expected to easily defeat his challenger, Paula Jean Swearengin.
The Republican Senate primary, however, is a far closer and more contentious race. The three candidates are Rep. Evan Jenkins, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and the highly controversial Don Blankenship.
Blankenship is a former coal baron who ran a coal company and spent time in a federal prison after a mining disaster in 2010 that killed 29 people. The company he ran was found to be violating federal safety regulations.
Blankenship has ran a bombastic campaign in which he’s sought to paint himself an anti-establishment politician, much like President Donald Trump did during his 2016 campaign. In fact, on Monday, Blankenship referred to himself as “Trumpier than Trump.”
Like Trump, Blankenship has also employed racially charged rhetoric, including in an ad that attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “China family.”
Blankenship has also spent a significant amount of money on campaign ads and has invaded West Virginia’s airwaves.
What in the world did I justwatch pic.twitter.com/4eudpGAxp0
— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) May 3, 2018
It initially looked like it would be a tight race between Jenkins and Morrisey, but Blankenship has been surging in the polls late in the game. This has been highly concerning to establishment Republicans like McConnell, who has reportedly urged Trump to step in and call on voters to go against Blankenship.
On Monday, Trump did just that, tweeting, “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!”
Trump was seemingly referencing the failed Senate campaign of right-wing candidate Roy Moore in Alabama (while leaving out the fact he endorsed Moore).
Blankenship’s candidacy highlights the rift in the Republican Party between traditional conservatives and bellicose outsiders, who arguably have similarities to the president. Interestingly, Trump is seemingly open to opposing the latter in the hopes of maintaining Republican supremacy in Congress and to keep influential politicians like McConnell happy.
In Indiana, incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly is running unopposed. But Republicans have a good chance of taking his seat, especially given Trump won by 19 points in Indiana.
With that said, the Republican field is quite messy. The three candidates are Rep. Todd Rokita, Rep. Luke Messer and Mike Braun, a businessman who previously served as a state lawmaker.
This primary has been particularly bloody and involved much in the way of personal attacks that have overshadowed any substantive debates over policy. Rokita, for example, went after Messer’s wife for taking a lucrative consulting job. In response, Messer accused Rokita of “spreading lies.” There have also been attacks regarding mental health as well as former legal troubles, including DUIs, between the two.
Rokita and Messer have a decades-long rivalry that goes back to the fact they graduated from the same college, Wabash College, back in the 1990s.
All three candidates have attempted to link themselves to Trump in some way or another, perhaps in an effort to gain momentum in a state that heavily voted for the president.
Rokita recently sponsored a resolution in Congress calling for special counsel Robert Mueller to show definitive evidence Trump collude with Russia’s interference in the 2016 election or promptly end his investigation. And Messer recently called for Trump to be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.
Meanwhile, Braun has attempted to portray himself as an anti-establishment candidate and an outsider from the world of business, much like Trump did in 2016.
Despite Rokita, Messer and Braun’s apparent efforts to win the president’s favor, he hasn’t endorsed anyone in Indiana.
A poll taken last month showed Braun in the lead, but many of those surveyed were undecided. In other words, it’s anybody’s game at this point.