W.Va. lawmaker hits GOP primary rival for late Trump endorsement

W.Va. lawmaker hits GOP primary rival for late Trump endorsement
© Greg Nash

Rep. Evan Jenkins (R-W.Va.) is launching a digital ad campaign that accuses his GOP Senate primary challenger, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, of lacking sufficient pro-Trump bona fides.

Jenkins's digital buy, which will be at least $10,000, will hit Morrisey with a video ad on Facebook and other digital ads seeking to frame him as a part of the "Never Trump" movement. The Hill obtained details on the ad buy ahead of its Tuesday launch.

"For months, Patrick Morrisey was #NeverTrump ... and now he's lying about it,” the short video says.

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Jenkins backed Trump days before the state’s primary. Morrisey, who served as a Republican National Convention delegate, did not publicly endorse a candidate ahead of the West Virginia primary. He also remained neutral publicly until around the GOP convention.

While Morrisey never signaled support for the movement looking to undermine Trump at the GOP convention, the attacks argue that Morrisey's neutrality meshed with that push.

The ads will direct to a blog on an opposition research website published by Jenkins’s campaign, which highlights Morrisey’s refusals to agree to back the winner of West Virginia’s primary, both before and after Trump’s victory.

In April, he told West Virginia MetroNews that his decision to run as an unplugged delegate gives him “the ability to make a seasoned judgment choice,” which could including choosing a candidate who didn’t win the state’s primary.

Nachama Soloveichik, a spokeswoman for the Morrisey campaign, blasted the accusation in a statement to The Hill.

She pointed to Jenkins’s past identification as a Democrat — he switched parties in 2013 ahead of his House bid — to criticize the congressman and tie him to the party's priorities by proxy.

"This is laughable coming from Evan Jenkins, a former liberal Democrat who supported Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonNew FBI document confirms the Trump campaign was investigated without justification California 25 and COVID-19 The Memo: Trump tweets cross into new territory MORE, cap-and-trade, ObamaCare, taxpayer-funded abortions and gun control,” she said.

"In contrast, Patrick Morrisey is a conservative Republican who has gone to court to defeat Obama’s agenda and to support President Trump. Most recently, Morrisey worked with President Trump to stop Obama’s Clean Power Plan and the Waters of U.S. rule.”

She added that Morrisey's campaign will soon launch digital ads of their own tying Jenkins to Clinton and cap-and-trade. 

While Trump was expanding his delegate lead by April, there had been continued chatter about the prospect of a contested convention if he could not win the majority of pledged delegates by the end of the primaries.

Morrisey told the Journal News in Martinsburg, W.Va., days before the mid-July convention that he would support the GOP nominee, but did not directly pledge his support to Trump by name. Days later, he cast his delegate vote for Trump on the convention floor.

During that interview, he also admitted that Trump was not his “first choice” in the primary. But Morrisey told the Associated Press in December that he voted for Trump during the primary and the general election. 

Jenkins's strategy is part of a trend of Senate GOP primary candidates attempting to tar their rivals as not sufficient backers of the president.

The winner of the primary will take on Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocratic unity starts to crack in coronavirus liability reform fight Stakes high for Collins in coronavirus relief standoff The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Surgeon General stresses need to invest much more in public health infrastructure, during and after COVID-19; Fauci hopeful vaccine could be deployed in December MORE (D-W.Va.) in a state that Trump won by more than 40 points.