Establishment Republicans are fearing recent polling suggesting Don Blankenship, using targeted attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, is surging ahead of Tuesday's primary for the GOP Senate candidacy to oppose Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., according to Politico.
Blankenship has reportedly narrowly moved ahead of mainstream GOP opponents, Rep. Evan Jenkins and West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
The fears lie not only in the opposition to McConnell, but the possibility a Republican will not be able to overtake the incumbent Democrat Manchin in a Senate majority so narrowly held by the GOP 51-49 heading into the November midterms.
Blankenship's GOP in-fighting attacks on McConnell include a TV commercial labeling McConnell "Cocaine Mitch," and claims McConnell's wife has ties to China, with Blankenship saying, according to Politico: McConnell's "China family has given him tens of millions of dollars."
Also, Blankenship is not the opposition-proof candidate Republicans seek after damaging losses in special elections of once red-leaning seats in Alabama and Pennsylvania. Blankenship has spent a year in jail after a 2010 explosion at his Upper Big Branch Mine which killed 29 workers.
While the White House has not publicly opposed Blankenship in the primary, Donald Trump Jr. has tweeted a call to "reject" the Republican that Democratic campaign funding has not bothered to oppose, seemingly in a belief he would be the easiest to defeat.
Also, the Mountain Families PAC aligned with McConnell has spent $1.3 million on a TV ad campaign against Blankenship and a digital ad telling West Virginians, "Don't vote Don Blankenship," according to Politico.
The GOP campaign against Blankenship was shrugged off by his strategist Greg Thomas.
"We have run hard from beginning to end and we are encouraged by the desperation we are seeing from our opposition," Thomas told Politico via text.
Republicans opposing Blankenship's candidacy have reportedly rebuked the recent polling showing he is pulling ahead, suggesting the surveys overstate Blankenship's support.
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