Polls show Blankenship ahead, sparking panic among GOP

Internal Republican polls show ex-coal CEO and former convict Don Blankenship in the lead a day before West Virginia’s Republican Senate primary, prompting more GOP fears about a Blankenship surge.

An internal poll from one of Blankenship’s rivals taken on Saturday and Sunday found Blankenship slightly ahead with 31 percent of the vote, according to The Weekly Standard. 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 came in second, with 28 percent, and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in third, with 27 percent. 

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Another internal survey taken on Friday and Saturday also showed Blankenship with a narrow lead with 28 percent of the vote. This poll found Morrisey in second place, with 27 percent, while Jenkins received just 14 percent.

Republicans are sounding the alarm as it appears Blankenship, who spent a year in prison for violating mining safety regulations following an explosion that killed 29 miners, is leading the pack again ahead of Tuesday’s primary. The winner of the GOP nomination will go on to face vulnerable Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinSenate Democrats to House: Tamp down the impeachment talk The Hill's Morning Report - Trump says no legislation until Dems end probes Senate panel approves Interior nominee over objections from Democrats MORE (D), a top Republican target.

The GOP views Manchin's seat as a prime pick-up opportunity to expand the party’s narrow majority in the Senate. President TrumpDonald John TrumpPapadopoulos on AG's new powers: 'Trump is now on the offense' Pelosi uses Trump to her advantage Mike Pence delivers West Point commencement address MORE won West Virginia by more than 40 points in 2016.

Some Republicans worry Blankenship’s controversial past could jeopardize their chances at unseating Manchin.

In a last-ditch effort to suppress Blankenship, Trump on Monday urged voters to reject the former coal executive and instead vote for either Jenkins or Morrisey on Tuesday.

“To the great people of West Virginia we have, together, a really great chance to keep making a big difference,” the president wrote on Twitter.

“Problem is, Don Blankenship, currently running for Senate, can’t win the General Election in your State...No way! Remember Alabama. Vote Rep. Jenkins or A.G. Morrisey!”

Blankenship fired back in a response to Trump’s tweet.

"As some have said I am Trumpier than Trump, and this morning proves it,” Blankenship said in a statement.