CHARLESTON, W.Va. — President Donald Trump, who remains very popular in West Virginia, has weighed in on the contentious Republican primary for U.S. Senate with his favorite form of communication, a tweet.
Trump, early this morning, urged West Virginia primary voters to not be tempted by the campaign of ex-coal boss Don Blankenship.
Blankenship, who went to prison for a year on a mine safety conspiracy charge, is running against incumbent Congressman Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
They are all competing to run against presumed the presumed Democratic nominee, incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 7, 2018
Blankenship responded with a statement this morning, saying the president is a very busy man who doesn’t know him.
“The establishment is misinforming him because they do not want me in the U.S. Senate and promote the president’s agenda,” Blankenship stated.
Blankenship went on to describe himself as the only candidate who can beat Manchin, referencing some political battles from when Manchin was governor.
“Tomorrow, West Virginia will send the swamp a message — no one, and I mean no one, will tell us now to vote.
“As some have said, I am Trumpier than Trump and this morning proves it.”
Trump’s tweet follows several signs over the weekend that the primary race for U.S. Senate has tightened up ahead of Election Day on Tuesday.
Morrisey announced a press conference for Sunday afternoon in which he went after Blankenship for his legal troubles.
Morrisey and Jenkins had focused on each other throughout their campaigns, as polls showed Blankenship in third. That remained the case even in a nationally-televised Fox News debate a week before Election Day.
But many observers thought the debate provided an opening for Blankenship to convey his message without being criticized himself.
By Sunday, Morrisey publicly acknowledged that Blankenship’s campaign had become a serious concern, right before Election Day.
“To be honest, I thought that West Virginians would see through the candidacy of Don Blankenship even more,” Morrisey said Sunday.
“As he’s moving up getting very close in the polls, I think it’s in the public interest to be able to talk about this information. Don Blankenship is not a credible candidate. I want to make sure we get this information out before the election.”
During an appearance in West Virginia earlier this spring, Trump was flanked by Morrisey and Jenkins. At the close, he asked those in attendance applaud the candidate of their choice.
Blankenship was not invited to that event.
Both Morrisey and Jenkins tweeted this morning that they welcome the president’s influence on the race.
The reference to Alabama in Trump’s Monday morning tweet was an allusion to the special Senate primary election between Luther Strange and populist Roy Moore, who was followed by scandal.
Blankenship spent a year in a California jail following his misdemeanor conviction on a mine safety conspiracy charge that stemmed from the 2010 explosion at Massey Energy’s Upper Big Branch mine that killed 29 workers.
He remains on supervised release.
Trump’s son Donald Jr. tweeted about the West Virginia race last week, saying Blankenship cannot win a general election race.
I hate to lose. So I’m gonna go out on a limb here and ask the people of West Virginia to make a wise decision and reject Blankenship!
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) May 3, 2018
Blankenship, like the other candidates, has tried to align himself with the president’s policies.
He also has been running a notably anti-establishment campaign, with some of his advertisements and many of his statements focusing on his disdain for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
During the Fox News debate in Morgantown, when candidates were asked if they would support McConnell for majority leader, Blankenship actually ducked at his podium.
HOPPY KERCHEVAL: Blankenship vs. McConnell
A political action committee associated with national Republicans has poured millions of dollars into fighting Blankenship’s campaign.
— Don Blankenship (@DonBlankenship) May 3, 2018