Likely W.Va. Senate GOP rivals spar in radio appearances

Likely W.Va. Senate GOP rivals spar in radio appearances
© Devin Henry

West Virginia Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey each took to local radio on Monday to sharpen their attacks on one other ahead of an expected clash in the state's GOP Senate primary. 

Morrisey slammed Jenkins, saying that the former Democrat comes with too much baggage from his old party to be trusted as a reliable conservative. And Jenkins warned that a bid by Morrisey would be selfish, because it would allow Gov. Jim Justice (D) to fill his spot with a Democratic attorney general. 
 
The radio sparring is the latest example of the gloves coming off in a race where the field hasn't even been set yet. 
 
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Jenkins announced his bid to oust Democratic Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump’s big wall isn’t going anywhere — and the polls show why Senate Judiciary announces Kavanaugh's confirmation hearing Anti-abortion group launches ads against Manchin over Planned Parenthood MORE last month, while Morrisey is expected to join him in the next few months. But even with Morrisey on the sidelines, both have been jockeying like the race has already begun. 
 
Morrisey took to the airwaves first, a little after 9 a.m., using a question about Jenkins's Senate bid to dredge up his past as a Democrat. Jenkins served in the state legislature for years as a Democrat, but changed parties ahead of his successful challenge of then-Rep. Nick RahallNick Joe RahallWe shouldn't allow politics to impede disaster relief Break the cycle of partisanship with infant, child health care programs Clinton mulls role in 2018 midterms MORE (D). Jenkins hosted a fundraiser for Manchin during his former life as a Democrat, a fact Morrisey brought up in his interview. 
 
"I believe we need someone that can provide a real contrast to Joe Manchin on the issues ... I don't think Jenkins does it in the way we need," Morrisey said on Eastern Panhandle Talk
 
"I worry that Evan doesn't match up well against Sen. Manchin, not only as a former Democrat but having a lot of the same issues challenges with respect to being on the [President Barack] Obama team, supporting [2016 Democratic presidential nominee] Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonHillicon Valley: FBI fires Strzok after anti-Trump tweets | Trump signs defense bill with cyber war policy | Google under scrutiny over location data | Sinclair's troubles may just be beginning | Tech to ease health data access | Netflix CFO to step down Signs grow that Mueller is zeroing in on Roger Stone Omarosa claims president called Trump Jr. a 'f--- up' for releasing Trump Tower emails MORE, being for ObamaCare and higher taxes, doing a fundraiser for Joe Manchin. My sense is that doesn't match up very well." 
 
Jenkins had previously supported pieces of healthcare reform contained in ObamaCare, according to Roll Call. But he told The Hill in 2014 that he voted for Republicans John Mccain and Mitt Romney in the 2008 and 2012 presidential races, respectively. 
 
Morrisey's linking of Jenkins with Obama and Clinton is presumably based on them all running as Democrats in 2008. On Sunday, the attorney general wrote on Facebook that anyone who "stood strong for Hillary Clinton and ran on Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFalwell Jr.: Sessions and Rosenstein ‘deceived’ Trump into appointing them and should ‘rot’ in jail The Trump economy is destroying the Obama coalition Charlottesville and the failure of moral leadership MORE's team" should "not be the Republican nominee for US Senate in West Virginia in 2018." 
 
A spokesman for Morrisey did not return a request to clarify those comments. 
 
Later that morning, Jenkins slapped at Morrisey during a talk radio interview of his own, where he said that the attorney general should tell West Virginia voters "if I win, you lose," because Justice will have the authority to fill his seat. 
 
"What Morrisey should do is honor his promise to the West Virginia people. All those people that wrote him checks for his campaign, all those people that he looked in the eye and said, 'Please vote for me,'" Jenkins said on Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval, a radio call-in show in the state.
 
"I shudder to think what a Justice-appointed [Democratic attorney general], the damage they would do over the two-plus years of the balance of the Morrisey term."
 
Jenkins later tweeted out a link of the appearance on his campaign Twitter account, complete with a warning that "Patrick Morrisey should keep his promise & finish his four-year term."
 
While Morrisey is still considering his bid, he admitted on that morning show that he thinks he "can do more if I am in the U.S. Senate." But he bristled at the idea that he's going to negative, accusing Jenkins of casting the first stone. 
 
"Everything is factual, everything can be backed up, and I think votes deserve a clear contrast but not personal stuff," Morrisey said. 
 
"I was disappointed in what Evan did, coming right out of the gate his spokesperson launched some attacks against my wife and me.” 
 
The back and forth was far from the first battle in the blossoming Senate primary, as the two Republicans will likely vie for the right to take on Manchin in what's considered a top target for Senate Republicans. 
 
Manchin is one of the few Democrats left in rural areas like West Virginia — he's served more than 15 years in statewide office, and even more as a state legislator. 
 
But while the Democrat cruised to victory by a 24-point margin in his 2012 Senate election, President Trump's 42-point margin in the state in 2016 has boosted Republican hopes that they can knock him off.