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Sore losers of GOP primaries threatening nominees' chances in November

Bruising Republican primaries are leading to extended feuds within state parties, as some losing candidates hint that they’re not ready to rally around the winner.

By Eric Boehlert - May 14, 2018
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Indiana Republican Rep. Todd Rokita, who lost the Senate primary race
Indiana Republican Rep. Todd Rokita, who lost the Senate primary race

Republicans hosted bitter primaries in three states last week. And there’s evidence that the intramural hard feelings aren’t going away.

Any long-running feuds that might emerge in places like Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia will only make it harder for the GOP to counter a growing Democratic blue wave in November.

Traditionally, losers of the primary contest rally around the winner to ensure party success. But that doesn’t seem to be happening this time around.

In Ohio, Mike Gibbons, a banker who failed in his bid for the Senate nomination, recently posted a cryptic message that suggested he’s not done campaigning:

Any independent run by Gibbons would only make it harder for Republicans to win the Ohio seat against longtime Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown.

In Indiana, Republicans just concluded a brutal primary season, which featured relentless attacks among the three Senate candidates. One loser, Rep. Todd Rokita, kept jabbing his Republican rival on election night, even as he conceded defeat.

“Not every fight is fair. Not every candidate can stroke a personal $6 million check. But, that’s life,” said Rokita. And he offered only a passive-aggressive message about the nominee Mike Braun’s candidacy.

“I hope he will rise to the occasion and truly fight for this state. I know he has it in him,” Rokita said. But he undermined that by adding that Braun should “not just wage an expensive media campaign to buy a Senate seat, only to keep Washington at the status quo. We can’t afford it.”

And in West Virginia, coal mining executive Don Blankenship continues to be the uninvited GOP guest who refuses to get off the stage.

Last week, he lost the GOP Senate primary to Patrick Morrisey and now seems determined to make sure Morrisey doesn’t win in November.

“Don Blankenship will not be supporting Patrick Morrisey for U.S. Senate,” a Blankenship campaign adviser announced last week. “I think the one thing he is going to make sure doesn’t happen is that Patrick Morrisey does not become a U.S. Senator.”

Blankenship, who served time in prison for violating safety regulations and causing the deaths of 29 workers, is sitting on a personal fortune that he could use to make sure Morrisey never makes it to Washington.

It’s part of a long-running and vicious feud he’s waged against the Republican Party establishment, and specifically Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In his just-concluded campaign, Blankenship ridiculed McConnell’s father-in-law as a “wealthy Chinaperson.” And he attacked McConnell for getting “tens of millions of dollars” from his “China family.”

Incredibly, post-election, Blankenship is still trolling McConnell.

It seems that the White House’s effort last week to have Trump personally reach out to Blankenship after the election has done nothing to thwart the failed candidate’s rage.

Keep in mind that going into 2018, many Republicans viewed West Virginia as an easy GOP Senate pick-up. Trump won the state by more than 40 points in 2016.

But the longer the feud rages, the harder it will be to defeat Democratic incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin.

As with Indiana and Ohio, this unwillingness to graciously concede defeat and take up sides with the party’s nominee only adds to the utter disarray in which the GOP finds itself.

And November is only six months away.


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