What To Look For In Tuesday’s Primaries

Four states are holding primaries on Tuesday:  West Virginia, Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina.  Here’s a quick look at some key contests at stake:

West Virginia:  Republicans think Sen. Joe Manchin (D) is vulnerable in November, and he may be, in a state that President Trump carried with nearly 68% of the vote — nearly 42 points more than Hillary Clinton.  But some in the party fear that Don Blankenship, the former coal mine owner who went to prison following a 2010 explosion at one of his mines that killed 29 workers, could win the primary — and hand Manchin another term.  Among Blankenship’s targets is Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whom Blankenship refers to in a commercial as “Cocaine Mitch.”  In a surprising move, Trump tweeted on Monday, “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.”  Representing more of the party establishment are Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.  Polls close:  7:30 pm Eastern.

Indiana:  Another Trump state, another vulnerable Democratic senator in the fall.  This one is Joe Donnelly, a moderate, pro-life incumbent who won his first term in 2012 after the Republican incumbent, Dick Lugar, was defeated in the GOP primary by a flawed candidate, Richard Mourdock.  Two House members, Todd Rokita and Luke Messer, have been joined by a so-called “outsider,” businessman Mike Braun, in a primary slugfest that has gotten nasty and personal.

In the GOP primary in the Sixth Congressional District, which is being given up by Messer, which was previously held by Mike Pence, most attention is on one candidate:  Greg Pence, the brother of the vice president.  Pence has skipped all the debates and avoids most of the media, but is thought to be the likely winner.

Polls close:  7 pm Eastern (much of state closes an hour earlier).

Ohio:  The Senate race is pretty straightforward in the Buckeye State.  Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown, seeking a third term, is guaranteed renomination.  His likely Republican opponent is Rep. Jim Renacci, who is facing wealthy businessman Mike Gibbons in the primary.  As with West Virginia and Indiana, Ohio went for Trump in 2016 (by eight percentage points).  But the president’s numbers are not as solid here as in the other two states, and the canny Brown, a strong liberal populist, has picked and chosen when to back Trump, as he did with the threats of tariffs and a trade war with China.

The gubernatorial primary is probably more interesting.  It’s for the job term-limited John Kasich is giving up.  On the Republican side, state Attorney General Mike DeWine, who was in the Senate until Brown unseated him in 2006, is favored over Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, once a Kasich ally but who now is barely on speaking terms with the governor, who has been a strong Trump critic and who may be planning on another presidential run in 2020.  The Democratic primary features Richard Cordray, who headed up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau during the Obama years, and Dennis Kucinich, the former mayor, congressman and two-time presidential hopeful who is challenging Cordray from the left.  The Dem primary has upended some liberal alliances — Elizabeth Warren is backing Cordray, while a sizable portion of the Bernie Sanders organization supports Kucinich.  The fact that Kucinich has become an analyst on Fox News, with views that sometime support Trump, makes the contest even more surreal.

There’s a special primary in Ohio’s 12th Congressional District, to fill the seat vacated by Pat Tiberi (R), who resigned last year.  The Republican battle is a vintage struggle between the party’s establishment wing, led by Tiberi-backed state Sen. Troy Balderson, and the Freedom Caucus/Jim Jordan wing, personified by businesswoman Melanie Leneghan.  Also considered a strong candidate in the GOP field is Air Force veteran Tim Kane.  This is the seat once held by Kasich.  Democrats say (and establishment Republicans fear) that a win by Leneghan will give the seat to the Dems in the August 7 general election.

Polls close:  7:30 pm Eastern.

North Carolina:  No Senate or gubernatorial seat is at stake, and most incumbent House members should sail through the primary.  But, as always, we should watch what happens to Rep. Walter Jones, the libertarian-leaning Republican who, though considered a conservative, has voted against Trump more than any other GOP House member.  First elected in 1994 — and who says this will be his last term — Jones is used to facing primary challenges from candidates more acceptable to the party establishment.  On Tuesday his leading opponent is Scott Dacey, a local county commissioner, who argues that Jones’ record is the reason why Trump supporters should vote for him.  Jones is probably favored to win, but whoever comes out on top Tuesday is assured of victory in November; no Democrat has filed for the seat.  Polls close:  7:30 pm Eastern.

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