Republicans may be able to avoid disaster after all in West Virginia, according to a new poll.
Controversial coal baron and ex-con Don Blankenship has dropped to third place in the Republican primary to face Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) in the fall, according to a new poll conducted for the neutral Republican group GOPAC. He sits at 12 percent support in the survey, with West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey at 24 percent and Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-WV) at 20 percent.
That’s a reversal of earlier polling that found Blankenship in the mid-20s, with a real chance to win the May 8 primary. Blankenship is just months removed from a year-long jail sentence related to his company’s failure to follow safety regulations at a mine where 29 workers died in a 2010 explosion. But Republicans in the state and nationally were growing increasingly concerned that he could become their nominee, embarrass the party and destroy their chances against Manchin.
The poll was conducted by Adam Geller at National Research Inc., a GOP pollster whose clients include President Trump.
“With regards to the Republican Primary Election, while 39 percent of voters remain undecided, it appears that Attorney General Patrick Morrisey has carved out a modest lead over Congressman Evan Jenkins,” GOPAC Chairman David Avella said in a statement.
Primary polling is always difficult to conduct, especially in states like West Virginia with limited histories of GOP primaries to use as a model. And the survey has a small 415-person sample, leading to a higher likelihood that it might not be accurate. But Democrats who’ve jumped into the race with TV ads attacking Morrisey and Jenkins told TPM last week that their own surveys show Blankenship is trailing, and a GOP super-PAC that has been heavily airing ads attacking Blankenship’s record may be seeing results.