MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – President Donald Trump already has endorsed Senate candidates in Ohio, Florida, and Tennessee.
But not in West Virginia.
That’s where a trio of top-tier contenders is set to square off in a nationally televised debate on Fox News after weeks of fighting about who would be the Trump administration’s greatest ally in Washington, D.C.
Now one candidate is trying to convince voters that other high-profile endorsements matter just as much as the president’s.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey believes former 2016 presidential candidates lending their names to his campaign should be a boost.
“(Texas Sen.) Ted Cruz, (Kentucky Sen.) Rand Paul, (Gov.) Scott Walker,” Morrisey said. “Conservatives are uniting behind my candidacy because I’m the one that took on Obama overreach.”
But nobody on that list started 2016 as a Trump ally, something Rep. Evan Jenkins is trying to exploit.
“He’s got Ted Cruz, who’s said the most vicious things about President Trump,” Jenkins said. “These are all Patrick Morrisey’s never-Trumper network.”
Trump beat Hillary Clinton by 42 points in West Virginia, so this kind of back-and-forth could loom large in the week before primary voters head to the polls.
Jenkins argues he’s been the most helpful to Trump, because he’s the only one in D.C. casting ballots to advance the Trump agenda. Morrisey argues he’s been the most helpful because he’s been filing lawsuits on behalf of the state to undo Obama-era energy regulations.
Then there’s Don Blankenship.
A former coal-baron, Blankenship recently served a year in jail on a misdemeanor conviction for conspiracy to violate mine safety laws, following 2010’s Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 people.
Because Blankenship was locked up for a big chunk of Trump’s early days in office, and wasn’t holding elected office, he couldn’t be much help to the White House.
Now, he stands out as the only one who openly admits – there’s a President he’d like to model himself after more than Trump.
“I’m in line with Trump’s policies, but totally out of line with his behavior many times,” Blankenship recently told Fox News. “I would like to be more like Ronald Reagan.”