CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Two front-runners in the Republican primary race to take on U.S. Senator Joe Manchin next fall embraced an early-morning tweet by President Donald Trump.
The target of Trump’s tweet, ex-coal boss Don Blankenship, said the president only urged West Virginians to vote against him because he doesn’t know him well.
President Trump, in a tweet just prior to 7 a.m., said West Virginians should vote for either Congressman Evan Jenkins or state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
“Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State…No way!” Trump tweeted.
During a campaign rally at the state Capitol in Charleston, Jenkins cast the tweet as a presidential endorsement of his campaign.
“This morning, President Trump gave us a wonderful shoutout, saying he was encouraging support for Evan Jenkins for Senate in the Republican primary tomorrow,” Jenkins said, not mentioning that the president also expressed support for Morrisey.
During an appearance today on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he believes momentum is on his side heading into Primary Election Day.
“I think people are moving, they’re closing toward us,” Morrisey said on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline” during a brief break in campaigning in Grant County.
“This has really been narrowing down between Don Blankenship and myself.”
Morrisey said the Republican candidate nominated in West Virginia could determine control of the U.S. Senate.
“I want to make sure (U.S. Senate Minority Leader) Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is not the majority leader. That’s the most important question that we’re going to have to resolve,” Morrisey said when asked about U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
He said a Blankenship nomination would guarantee a win for U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) in November.
“Joe Manchin is a top lieutenant of Chuck Schumer’s. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Morrisey said.
Jenkins also focused on Manchin during his campaign appearance at the Capitol.
“This is about West Virginians. It’s about replacing Joe Manchin this November,” Jenkins said.
Blankenship, who was also making final campaign appearances on Tuesday, predicted during his own appearance on “Talkline” today that Trump’s tweet won’t have a major impact.
“A point or two won’t make much difference,” Blankenship said, claiming to be significantly ahead in polling.
Blankenship, who went to prison for a year on a mine safety conspiracy charge, said the president is a very busy man who doesn’t know him. He said “the establishment” has influenced the president.
“My situation in West Virginia is Trumpier than Trump,” Blankenship said on “Talkline.”
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.
Much of the discussion among candidates during the Republican primary for Senate has been how much each would support the president’s agenda. Trump remains very popular in West Virginia, which he won by 60 percent in 2016.
More Election Day updates:
— Another of the candidates for U.S. Senate, truck driver and veteran Jack Newbrough, announced on “Talkline” that he supports Blankenship. Newbrough had earlier said he would not support Morrisey.
“I think he would follow in the exact same footsteps as our president,” Newbrough said.
He added, “I have been on the campaign trail with Mr. Blankenship and I have listened to his stories, and I honestly believe he is Trumpier than Trump.”
— Another candidate for Senate, laid off miner Bo Copley, said on “Talkline” that three of the six candidates had not gotten a fair shake — including from the president.
“Donald Trump tweeting about the candidates, I don’t know that he knows the rest of us are even in this because media doesn’t portray us as being in it,” Copley said.
Copley singled out Morrisey for criticism among the six candidates.
“You have a guy who moved to this state, specifically to run for office, who in less than 12 years could be sent to Washington, D.C., and be the representative for my family,” Copley said.
“And I’ll be quite honest with you, he’s been probably the rudest person in this race that I’ve met in Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. He doesn’t care if there’s a conversation going on; he’s not seen a conversation going on yet that he wouldn’t break up to be able to get some attention, to be able to talk too.”
— “There’s a clear path to victory,” Willis said on “Talkline.”
“Twenty-six percent can win this race. That comes out to 23,400 votes across the entire state. I’ll get more than that just from the veteran community. I’ll pick up the faith vote, and there’s a huge contingent that are just sick of the other three guys and the negative campaigning.”
Shauna Johnson contributed to this story.
West Virginia MetroNews will feature live coverage of the statewide election starting at 7:06 p.m. Tuesday.