CHARLESTON – On the eve of the West Virginia primary, Don Blankenship’s campaign has released a poll showing him with a sizable lead in the Republican race for U.S. Senate.
Meanwhile, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and U.S. Congressman Evan Jenkins both touted a May 7 tweet by President Donald Trump urging Republicans to vote for either of them instead of Blankenship, the former Massey Energy CEO who was sentenced to a one-year sentence on a misdemeanor conspiracy charge for the 2010 explosion at the Upper Big Branch mine in Raleigh County that killed 29 miners.
Blankenship's May 7 poll included nearly 1,000 West Virginia Republican primary voters. It showed Blankenship with 37 percent of the vote, compared to 20 percent for current state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and 15 percent for current U.S. Representative Evan Jenkins.
Blankenship's campaign also noted two other polls by other campaigns show he is leading the race, citing a story in The Weekly Standard.
"Blankenship has surged to the lead after winning the May 1st debate on FOX News in Morgantown, and separated over the last week from the pack," the campaign said in a press release. "Career politicians and the D.C. Establishment have escalated their false and negative attacks against Blankenship and continue to believe they can tell West Virginia voters who they can and can’t vote for."
Blankenship continued his attack on the Washington, D.C., establishment.
"No matter how much Cocaine Mitch McConnell and the D.C. Swamp creatures lie to the voters, and mislead our President, they cannot change the focus of our conservative voters," he said. "We cannot be of The Swamp if we want to Drain The Swamp.
"I am the most anti-establishment candidate in America and it is clear. The same Establishment that said Trump couldn't win, now attacks me and our voters. You should know me by my enemies. Barack Obama, Joe Manchin and Mitch McConnell. They are the enemies of Making West Virginia Great Again.
“Patrick Morrisey is benefiting from millions of dollars being spend by Chuck Schumer and the Democrats – yet he won’t reject their support” Blankenship said. “Jenkins is a career politician and has already been in D.C. too long, the choice is clear – we can elect someone who will shake things up in Washington or we can vote for who the establishment tells us we can vote for."
Earlier in the day, Trump tweeted about the West Virginia Senate race, saying Blankenship couldn't beat incumbent Democrat Joe Manchin in the fall and compared Blankenship to Roy Moore, who lost a Senate race last year to Democrat Doug Jones.
"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 tweeted at 6:53 a.m.
Within hours, both Morrisey and Jenkins had seized upon the tweet.
"I hope West Virginia voters will listen to President Trump when they go to the polls tomorrow," Morrisey said in a campaign press release. "We have a real chance to unite behind a proven conservative fighter and defeat Sen. Manchin in the fall.
"If we do that, West Virginia will have a senator who will work closely with President Trump. Don Blankenship is Chuck Schumer's favorite candidate because everyone knows he will lose to Joe Manchin in the fall."
Jenkins echoed that.
"I’m honored that President Trump encouraged voters to cast their vote for me to Make America Great Again," he said in a campaign press release. "I’m the only candidate in this race who has backed Donald Trump since day one, and as senator, I’ll continue working side-by-side with him in the best interests of West Virginia and our conservative values."
Blankenship also responded, saying Trump is being misinformed.
"The President is a very busy man and he doesn’t know me, and he doesn’t know how flawed my two main opponents are in this primary," Blankenship said. "The establishment is misinforming him because they do not want me to be in the U.S. Senate and promote the President’s agenda.
"West Virginians are not going to vote for candidates who have failed to address the drug epidemic, aligned themselves with abortionists, and have never created a job."
Blankenship also said, "I will win the primary, and I will beat Joe Manchin."
"West Virginians want more jobs, an end to the drug epidemic, and an honest government," he said. "I will will do the job that Morrisey and Jenkins can’t do and have not done.
"I am the only candidate that has beaten Joe Manchin, and I have done it twice. In the history of West Virginia, no one has been more supportive of the Republican Party and conservative causes than I have been."
Blankenship said neither Morrisey nor Jenkins can defeat Manchin in the general election.
"Neither of my opponents can beat Joe Manchin without my support, but I will beat Joe Manchin even without the support of the establishment," he said. "West Virginia voters should remember that my enemies are Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, and my opponents would not even be running as Republicans had I not resurrected the Republican Party in West Virginia."
Blankenship also said West Virginians will let everyone know that no one "will tell us how to vote."
"As some have said, I am Trumpier than Trump and this morning proves it," Blankenship said.
Blankenship, Jenkins and Morrisey also will face former coal miner Bo Copley from Delbarton, Martinsburg businessman Tom Willis and Weirton truck driver Jack Newbrough in the Republican primary. Manchin will be challenged in the Democratic primary by Raleigh County environmental activist Paula Jean Swearengin.
West Virginia’s primary is May 8.