President Donald Trump on Monday came out against Republican Senate candidate Don Blankenship, urging West Virginia voters to support either of the two other main candidates in the state's GOP primary on Tuesday — and Blankenship fired right back.
"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!" Trump tweeted. "Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!"
Blankenship fired back at a town hall meeting on Monday.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
"We all really like President Trump's policies and we know that he doesn't get everything right," he said. "He recommended that people vote for a guy that was basically accused of pedophilia in Alabama. ... It's really sad the pressure on the president and the misinformation and the untruths that he's been given would cause him to suggest that you vote for two guys that have failed you. Because I will not fail you."
He described himself as "Trumpier than Trump."
Trump and Blankenship were referring to the Alabama Senate special election last year, when the GOP lost a Senate seat that had been in its hands for decades after allegations of sexual misconduct against Republican nominee Roy Moore upended the race and helped deliver a win to Democrat Doug Jones. Moore denied the allegations.
The back-and-forth comes just a day before West Virginia voters will decide whether to send Blankenship, a former coal executive who served prison time for his role in the 2010 Upper Big Branch coal mine explosion that killed 29 of his Massey Energy miners; Rep. Evan Jenkins, whose district includes Huntington, the state’s second-largest city; or state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to face Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin in November.
Trump's tweet signaled his party's most public attempt yet to wave voters away from Blankenship in hopes of Republicans being able to pick up a Democratic Senate seat this year.
A Fox News poll from late April showed Jenkins leading the pack, with 25 percent support among likely voters, compared to 21 percent for Morrisey and 16 percent for Blankenship.
Establishment Republicans have run ads against Blankenship in recent weeks and Donald Trump Jr. last week urged West Virginia voters not to put the GOP in a similar position as it was with Moore by fielding a weak candidate — "no more fumbles like Alabama" — in November. "Make a wise decision and reject Blankenship," Trump Jr. tweeted.