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Blankenship compares McConnell to 'the Russians' for 'interfering' in W.Va. primary

Blankenship compares McConnell to 'the Russians' for 'interfering' in W.Va. primary
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West Virginia Senate candidate Don Blankenship is upping his rhetorical war with Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden leans on Obama-era appointees on climate Kentucky Republican committee rejects resolution urging McConnell to condemn Trump impeachment Calls grow for 9/11-style panel to probe Capitol attack MORE (R-Ky.), comparing him to “the Russians” and calling him the "Swamp captain." 

"The Russians and McConnell should both stop interfering with elections outside their jurisdictions," Blankenship, one of multiple Republicans challenging Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden EPA asks Justice Dept. to pause defense of Trump-era rules | Company appeals rejection of Pebble Mine | Energy pick Granholm to get hearing Wednesday Nomination hearing for Biden Energy pick Granholm set for Wednesday Bipartisan Senate gang to talk with Biden aide on coronavirus relief MORE (D-W.Va.) said in a statement on Monday about "D.C. swamp creatures." 

He added that McConnell "should not be in the U.S. Senate, let alone be the Republican Majority Leader. He is a Swamp captain. He does not understand that it is past time for Congress to put our country above politics and self-interest." 

The statement comes after an outside group with ties to national Republicans began running ads against the anti-establishment candidate — whose ascendency in the GOP primary has sparked alarm bells in Washington. 

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Blankenship's primary opponents, as well as the Senate GOP campaign arm, have been loath to directly attack the former coal CEO, who was released from prison less than a year ago after a mine disaster that killed 29 miners. 

But national Republicans appear poised to increase their attacks less than a months before the May 8 primary. 

The Mountain Families PAC is spending nearly $745,000 against Blankenship, according to Federal Election Commission (FEC) records filed on Friday. The money, according to the filing, is being spent on media production, placement and online ads.

The Charleston Gazette Mail reported late last week that the outside group had purchased nearly $220,000 in TV ads. 

According to FEC and Federal Communications Commission records, the group is based out of Arlington, Va. Ben Ottenhoff, listed as the group's treasurer, previously worked for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). 

The bulk of the nearly $745,000 is going to the Main Street Media Group, which has worked with the Senate Leadership Fund, an outside group with close ties to McConnell. 

McConnell told The New York Times earlier this year that he didn't want Blankenship to win the primary,  a three-way race between Blankenship, Rep. Evan JenkinsEvan Hollin JenkinsWest Virginia New Members 2019 Republican Carol Miller holds off Democrat in West Virginia House race Trump to fundraise for 3 Republicans running for open seats: report MORE (W.Va.) and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. 

But Blankenship has deep pockets and has spent millions on advertising since being released from prison. Polling released late last month from both of his opponents showed him in a close second place. 

Blankenship told The Hill earlier this month that he would not support McConnell as majority leader if Republicans hold on to the chamber after November — or GOP leader, if they do not. 

He added on Monday that the Kentucky Republican should "mind his own business and do his job."

"The Republican Party swampers in Washington have come to the surface to oppose my candidacy for the U.S. Senate. They are swamp creatures who pretend to be conservatives but are instead liberal big spenders," Blankenship added.

Republicans worry that the West Virginia GOP race could be a repeat of Alabama, where conservative firebrand Roy MooreRoy Stewart MooreAlabama zeroes in on Richard Shelby's future Long-shot Espy campaign sees national boost in weeks before election Ocasio-Cortez slams Tulsi Gabbard for amplifying ballot harvesting video MORE won the primary but lost to now-Sen. Doug Jones (D) amid reports that he pursued relationships with teenage girls when he was in his 30s. 

With a 51-seat majority, Republicans view West Virginia, which President TrumpDonald TrumpNYT: Rep. Perry played role in alleged Trump plan to oust acting AG Arizona GOP censures top state Republicans McCain, Flake and Ducey Biden and UK prime minister discuss NATO, multilateralism during call MORE won by more than 40 points, as a prime pickup opportunity. 

Blankenship hit back against the comparisons to Moore on Monday, adding that if McConnell believes he can't defeat Manchin, then he "has no idea what the political realities are in West Virginia."

"The Never Trump movement has turned into the Never Blankenship movement," he added.