Tuesday is one of the biggest primary days of 2018.
In West Virginia, Republicans are wringing their hands over the possibility that Don Blankenship — the former coal executive imprisoned for violating mine safety standards after a mining explosion that killed dozens — will win the Senate primary. Blankenship, who has personally attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP nightmare looms in West Virginia Overnight Finance: Trump looks to rescind B in spending | SEC Republican commish to retire, risking deadlock | House to vote Tuesday on repealing car loan guidelines White House to request Congress rescind billion in spending MORE (R-Ky.) and his wife, Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoGOP nightmare looms in West Virginia Flake says he’ll donate to Manchin if Blankenship wins primary McConnell urged Trump to speak out against Blankenship: report MORE, is seen as putting a winnable race in jeopardy if he emerges victorious on Tuesday.
In Ohio, the high-profile race is on the Democratic side, where former Rep. Dennis Kucinich is seeking a comeback as Ohio’s governor against Richard CordrayRichard Adams CordrayDem presidential hopefuls flock to Trump country May brings key primaries across nation Overnight Finance: Banks close in on Dodd-Frank relief | Inflation reaches threshold for Fed rate hikes | Rubio undercuts GOP tax message | Closing arguments in AT&T trial MORE, the former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and a key ally of Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenCarson facing lawsuit for rescinding Obama-era fair-housing rule: report Dem presidential hopefuls flock to Trump country Message to liberal senators: Don’t meddle with the IRS MORE (D-Mass.).
Here are seven key races to watch on Tuesday.
GOP primary for West Virginia Senate
Blankenship’s surge over the weekend has scrambled West Virginia’s high-stakes GOP primary in the final days.
Two internal Republican polls showed Blankenship jumping into the lead over his two main rivals, Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsTrump records robocall in support of Renacci ahead of Ohio Senate primary GOP nightmare looms in West Virginia Flake says he’ll donate to Manchin if Blankenship wins primary MORE and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Blankenship has spent the bulk of his campaign railing against the establishment and McConnell. The West Virginia Republican ran an ad attacking McConnell as a “swamp captain” who has received money from his “China family.”
Blankenship’s momentum is a political headache for Republicans, who see the race as a top pickup opportunity this fall. Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinAdministration bears down in late push for CIA nominee Trump records robocall in support of Renacci ahead of Ohio Senate primary GOP nightmare looms in West Virginia MORE is a top target for Republicans after President TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions unveils ‘zero tolerance’ policy at southern border NY attorney general resigns after allegations of physical abuse Trump Jr. mocks Schneiderman after reports he abused women MORE won the state by more than 40 points in 2016.
Republicans fear that a Blankenship victory on Tuesday would imperil their chances of unseating Manchin and expanding their slim Senate majority. Strategists are comparing the primary to Alabama’s special election, when Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreGOP nightmare looms in West Virginia McConnell urged Trump to speak out against Blankenship: report Blankenship hits back at Trump: He backed a candidate ‘accused of pedophilia’ MORE won the Republican nomination with an anti-establishment primary campaign, only to blow what should have been a safe GOP seat to Sen. Doug Jones (D) after Moore was accused of sexual misconduct with teenagers.
Mountain Families PAC, a super PAC with ties to the national party, poured more than a million dollars into ads meant to soften up Blankenship. But Blankenship rebounded, prompting Trump to make an eleventh-hour plea for voters to reject him in favor of either Jenkins or Morrisey.
Jenkins and Morrisey have largely ignored Blankenship. But in the final days of the race, Morrisey turned up the heat on Blankenship, arguing that he’d cost Republicans a winnable seat in November.
GOP primary for Indiana Senate
Indiana also features a fierce, three-way primary to take on Democratic Sen. Joe DonnellyJoseph (Joe) Simon DonnellyTrump records robocall in support of Renacci ahead of Ohio Senate primary The Hill’s Morning Report: Giuliani floods the media zone for Trump Mueller emerges as villain in Republican campaigns MORE, one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for reelection.
Unlike in West Virginia, though, Republicans feel good about any of the three leading candidates advancing out of the primary to square off against Donnelly.
The primary was initially a two-person race between Reps. Luke MesserAllen (Luke) Lucas MesserThis week: Senate tees off net neutrality showdown The Hill’s Morning Report: Giuliani floods the media zone for Trump Mueller emerges as villain in Republican campaigns MORE and Todd RokitaTheodore (Todd) Edward RokitaThis week: Senate tees off net neutrality showdown The Hill’s Morning Report: Giuliani floods the media zone for Trump Mueller emerges as villain in Republican campaigns MORE. But wealthy businessman and former state legislator Mike Braun’s entrance into the race upended the primary.
Braun, who has sought to position himself as an outsider, spent $5.4 million of his own money on the race. His self-funding has enabled him to wage a competitive campaign against Rokita and Messer.
Loyalty to Trump has been a huge factor in GOP primaries across the country, and the Hoosier State — which Trump won by 20 points — is no exception. Each of the three candidates has competed to position himself as the most dedicated Trump supporter in the race.
Messer, for example, introduced a resolution calling on Trump to be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. And Rokita introduced a resolution to end special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE’s Russia probe — unless evidence of collusion is produced — within 30 days.
Whoever wins the nomination will likely get Trump’s endorsement. The president plans to hold a campaign rally in Indiana two days after the primary.
GOP primary for Ohio Senate
Rep. Jim RenacciJames (Jim) B. RenacciTrump records robocall in support of Renacci ahead of Ohio Senate primary Trump touts border efforts, poll numbers in freewheeling tax cuts talk May brings key primaries across nation MORE is poised to clinch the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownTrump records robocall in support of Renacci ahead of Ohio Senate primary Senate Dems urge Trump to remain in Iran deal ahead of announcement Trump touts border efforts, poll numbers in freewheeling tax cuts talk MORE. But there’s been little public polling, making it hard to know where the primary race stands.
Renacci faces a challenge to the right from businessman Mike Gibbons, who has framed himself as the outsider in the race.
Trump, who won Ohio by 8 points in 2016, has endorsed Renacci — a big boost for the congressman.
But Renacci has recently endured a slew of unflattering headlines, including the news that he failed to disclose political donations while registered as a lobbyist.
Whoever wins the GOP nomination, Republicans acknowledge that their nominee will face an uphill fight against Brown, a populist progressive who polls well in his state.
Primaries for Ohio House special election
With Arizona’s unexpectedly close special election in the rearview mirror, both parties are turning their attention to the next high-profile special election: The fight to replace ex-Rep. Pat TiberiPatrick (Pat) Joseph TiberiConservatives warn leadership to stay out of Ohio GOP primary May brings key primaries across nation Dems look to keep up momentum in upcoming special elections MORE (R-Ohio).
Democrats believe they can put another GOP stronghold into play, positioning themselves for an upset victory in a Republican district. Ohio’s 12th District — the most affluent and highest educated in the state — encompasses Columbus suburbs, but also extends to rural areas. Trump won the district by 11 points.
The high-stakes race has drawn candidates on both sides.
On the Republican side, state Sen. Troy Balderson has drawn support from the establishment wing — including Tiberi, a close ally of House leadership. Meanwhile, Liberty Township Trustee Melanie Leneghan has earned support from leading conservative figures including Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanOn World Press Freedom Day, elected officials must commit to keeping press freedom nonpartisan Conservatives warn leadership to stay out of Ohio GOP primary Election analyst sees Dem chances improving in Ohio special election MORE (Ohio), who founded the House Freedom Caucus.
Other GOP candidates who have the potential to break through in the wide-open race include veteran Tim Kane, Delaware County prosecutor Carol O’Brien and state Sen. Kevin Bacon.
Meanwhile, a few leading candidates have emerged on the Democratic side.
Franklin County Recorder Danny O’Connor has earned local support and endorsements from Ohio Reps. Tim RyanTimothy (Tim) John RyanPelosi a target for GOP, and for Dems demanding change Pelosi on midterms: ‘We will win. I will run for Speaker.’ New Democratic leadership necessary for 2018 success MORE and Joyce BeattyJoyce Birdson BeattyElection analyst sees Dem chances improving in Ohio special election Dems look to Ohio for another election upset Fighting America’s No. 1 killer MORE. Other candidates include former Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott, who’s running as more of a moderate, and progressive activist John Russell.
Primaries for Ohio governor
The most high-profile contest for Democrats on Tuesday is the primary in Ohio’s open-seat race to replace GOP Gov. John Kasich, who is term-limited out of office.
Kucinich and Cordray are battling it out in a state that trended red in 2016. Both men have fashioned themselves as progressive populists, with the race pitting prominent progressives against one another.
While Cordray has earned support from more establishment parts of the party, Warren’s endorsement has also given him a big boost among liberals. Warren, who founded the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has campaigned for Cordray.
Meanwhile, Our Revolution, the outgrowth of Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSenate Dems urge Trump to remain in Iran deal ahead of announcement Senators urge regulator scrutiny of T-Mobile-Sprint merger Dems face pressure to focus on economy, not Trump MORE’s (I-Vt.) 2016 presidential campaign, has gotten behind Kucinich — though Sanders himself has stayed on the sidelines. Kucinich, a former presidential candidate, is trumpeting his support for progressive ideals such as single-payer health care.
On the Republican side, state Attorney General Mike DeWine is running ahead of Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor. Both Republicans have sought to align closely with Trump, while keeping their distance from Kasich, an outspoken Trump critic.
GOP primary for Rep. Walter JonesWalter Beaman JonesConservatives warn leadership to stay out of Ohio GOP primary Lawmakers explore ways to reinstate House chaplain GOP lawmaker calls on Ryan to reinstate House chaplain MORE’s seat
Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), a longtime thorn in GOP leadership’s side, is facing a tough primary as he seeks to win one more term before retirement.
Jones has built a career on his willingness to break with the party. But while that independent streak isn’t new, opponent Scott Dacey is trying to frame Jones’s votes as an attack on the president’s agenda.
Dacey has hammered Jones for refusing to vote for the tax-reform bill and ObamaCare repeal — two bills Jones said raised concerns about fiscal responsibility — to try to frame Jones as anti-Trump.
But Jones has struck back by pointing to Dacey’s previous work as a federal lobbyist, questioning the challenger’s own commitment to Trump.
Available polling puts Jones ahead in the race, and he’s expected to win reelection in what he’s said will be his last race. But low-turnout primaries like these are difficult to predict, and the presence of a third candidate adds uncertainty to the race.
GOP primary for Rep. Robert Pittenger’s seat
Rep. Robert PittengerRobert Miller PittengerThe Hill’s Morning Report: Frustration mounts as Republicans blow up tax message May brings key primaries across nation Alarmed by foreign deals, lawmakers eye new review powers MORE (R-N.C.) is facing another primary challenge from Republican Mark Harris, who nearly beat him in 2016. This time, though, the GOP congressman is expected to overcome the challenge more easily.
Harris, a conservative Baptist pastor, nearly defeated Pittenger the last time they faced off, losing by just 134 votes.
But recent polling shows Pittenger with a comfortable double-digit lead over his challenger.
The race has largely hinged on support for Trump, and both Pittenger and Harris have accused the other of disloyalty to the president. Both supported other Republican presidential candidates in the 2016 contest before ultimately backing Trump.
If Pittenger emerges from the primary, though, he’ll have another tough race ahead of him. He’ll likely face Democrat Dan McCready, a veteran and businessman who has outraised him. Democrats are heavily targeting the district, which Trump won by 11 points.
Ben Kamisar contributed.