It's a huge day for both political parties with primary voters in four states—West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and North Carolina—going to the polls. Despite the small number of states involved, the results could go a long way in determining which party will be in control of the Senate next year. The race getting the most attention is in West Virginia, where a once-imprisoned coal executive, Don Blankenship, is vying to become the GOP candidate for the Senate against two more mainstream opponents. Republican leaders, including President Trump, are actively trying to prevent that. More details and highlights:
- Blankenship: The GOP thinks it has a rare chance to flip a Senate seat in November by ousting vulnerable Democratic incumbent Joe Manchin in West Virginia. But party leaders say that won't happen if the controversial Blankenship wins Tuesday's primary. Late polls show he has a chance, however, especially if his two GOP foes "split the anti-Blankenship vote," per Politico.
- How bad? So what if Blankenship wins? "I don't know," says John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Republican senator. "But let's just hope and pray that that doesn't happen." It's possible the party would cut ties with its own nominee in November, reports the Washington Post.
- Indiana Senate: This is another closely watched contest because incumbent Joe Donnelly is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election, reports the Hill. Three Republicans (Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita, along with businessman Mike Braun) are competing for the nomination. All are big Trump supporters, and the GOP is confident any of them can defeat Donnelly. Braun was surging in late polls.
- Ohio Senate: Trump is strongly backing Rep. Jim Renacci against businessman Mike Gibbons to be the GOP candidate to face Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown in November, reports the New York Times. As with West Virginia and Indiana, Trump carried the state in 2016, and the Times sees Ohio as more of a bellwether than the other two.
- Ohio governor: The race to replace Republican John Kasich is wide open and also "one of the most important governor's races in the country," explains Vox. On the Democratic side, it's Rich Cordray (former head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) against former Congressman Dennis Kucinich. For the GOP, it's State Attorney General Mike DeWine vs. Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor. ObamaCare and a brewing FBI corruption probe are factors.
- Ohio special election: Democrats think they can steal a GOP seat in traditionally red territory in the contest to replace Republican Pat Tiberi. The primaries will determine who will face off in that August vote, and the key contest is on the GOP side, between the establishment pick (state Sen. Troy Balderson) and a more conservative hard-liner (Melanie Leneghan), per Talking Points Memo. Either way, Republicans are leery of another close special-election contest.
- North Carolina: The races here are lower profile than in the other states, but one to watch is the primary challenge to GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger, reports the AP. His challenger is Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, who accuses Pittenger (who features Trump in his ads) of not supporting Trump strongly enough.
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