Blankenship may back third-party candidate in U.S. Senate race

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Apparently one of the options Don Blankenship is weighing is possibly backing a third party candidate in the U.S. Senate race between Senator Joe Manchin and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

Don Blankenship

Blankenship campaign manager Greg Thomas said during an appearance Thursday on MetroNews “Talkline” that “all options are on the table.”

Blankenship, the former Massey Energy CEO, came in third place in Tuesday’s GOP Senate primary behind Morrisey and Congressman Evan Jenkins. Thomas said a number of polls had him in the lead heading into last weekend and then came President Donald Trump’s Monday morning tweet that urged West Virginians not to vote for Blankenship but instead vote for either Morrisey or Jenkins.

According to Thomas, Blankenship’s entire post-debate bounce was wiped out by the tweet.

“We had no time (to react),” Thomas said. “Everything was done. It was the day before. It was the last thing that anybody heard about going in. And look, Donald Trump has an 84 percent approval rating in West Virginia among Republicans, and that hurt.”

Thomas said the tweet caused Blankenship to lose supporters who had just joined him a few days before following the May 1 Fox debate.

“We had a lead,” Thomas said.

Blankenship finished nearly 21,000 votes behind Morrisey Tuesday and 13,000 behind Jenkins. Thomas said President Trump’s tweet made that much of a difference.

“It took intervention from the President of the United States with an 84 percent approval rating to stop us from winning,” Thomas said.

But Blankenship won’t be going away quietly, Thomas said.

“We’ve only just begun.”

Among the possible options is Blankenship putting his support and money behind a person who was not a candidate in the Senate primary. He could also challenge the state’s sour grapes law that doesn’t allow a losing candidate in the primary to file as a third party candidate in the same race in the general election.

“If it’s Don Blankenship or another person, I’d say that Don is going to do everything he can to make sure West Virginians get a senator they deserve,” Thomas said. “Don Blankenship does not believe it should be Patrick Morrisey and he doesn’t believe it should be Joe Manchin.”

Blankenship is currently researching and evaluating his options, Thomas said.

“He’s taking a couple weeks off and he’ll be making a decision soon about exactly what he’s going to do. I think the one thing he is going to make sure doesn’t happen is that Patrick Morrisey becomes a U.S. senator,” Thomas said.

Trump called Blankenship Wednesday and while Thomas wouldn’t go into detail about what was said it doesn’t sound like the conversation changed Blankenship’s mind about going after Morrisey.

“Don hasn’t backed down from anybody in 68 years and he’s not going to stop now,” Thomas said. “Don is going to do what he believes is best.”

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