MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Fox News Political Editor Chris Stirewalt believes former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship may have picked up as many as eight percentage points for his performance in Tuesday night’s debate.
Blankenship, who debated on Fox News with state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Third District Congressman Evan Jenkins, was able to mostly avoid how he is usually described, Stirewalt said.
“You’re the killer. You’re a monster. You’re Beelzebub yourself—and he got on stage and he was affable and funny. So he is going to pick back up some of his support out of that,” Stirewalt said during a Wednesday appearance on MetroNews “Talkline.”
Blankenship, Morrisey, Jenkins and three other Republicans are seeking the GOP nomination in the May 8 vote. The winner to likely face U.S. Senator Joe Manchin in the fall election.
West Virginia Wesleyan Political Science Professor Robert Rupp said Blankenship went into the debate with a huge liability but only one question addressed his federal prison time and the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch Mine that killed 29 coal miners.
“By speaking less he came out more,” Rupp said.
Stirewalt said it will be interesting to see where Blankenship’s post-debate bounce comes from.
“Did he take it out of undecideds? Did he take it out of Morrisey? Did he take out of Jenkins? If he gets a bounce where does it come from?”
Jenkins had a lead in the Fox News poll released last week but voters were called before there was much negative advertising aimed at Jenkins, Stirewalt said.
“Jenkins has only taken his beating in the last couple of weeks. I’m curious to know how that has affected his negatives and whether there is some fluidity there,” Stirewalt said.
If Blankenship was the big winner in Tuesday night’s debate, Morrisey may have been the loser, Stirewalt said.
“He’s back a little bit off of Jenkins in our poll and he needs to make up that ground. He can try to take it out of the undecided, but really the best thing for Morrisey would have been for Blankenship to totally Titanic,” Stirewalt said.