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GOP Senate rival slams Blankenship over mine explosion

West Virginia Republican Attorney General Patrick Morrisey took aim Monday at Don Blankenship, his rival for the Republican Senate nomination, for the explosion at a Blankenship-run coal mine that killed 29 miners.

The new Morrisey ad comes as Republicans scramble to keep Blankenship, a controversial former coal executive and ex-convict, from winning Tuesday's primary. GOP observers fear that a Blankenship primary win would sink the party's chances of defeating Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinDemocratic Senate emerges as possible hurdle for progressives  Susan Collins and the American legacy Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein MORE (D-W.Va.) in November.

Morrisey's new digital ad represents the most direct attack on Blankenship's relationship to the 2010 explosion at Upper Big Branch Mine. But it's unclear if the last-minute strike can stop Blankenship amid concerns of a late surge.
 
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"Twenty-nine miners killed at Upper Big Branch Mine, owned and operated by Don Blankenship's company. Families devastated, children left fatherless, wives widowed," the narrator says in Morrisey's new ad, with Blankenship's face looming over 29 silhouettes meant to represent the miners who died in the blast.
 
"Blankenship was convicted and sentenced to prison for willfully conspiring to violate mine safety standards."
 
The ad goes on to note that Blankenship's probation officer lives in Nevada, not West Virginia, and claims that "liberal Democrats will easily defeat" Blankenship. 
 
The spot is a part of Morrisey's last-minute strategy to frame the race as a choice between "a convicted criminal or a proven conservative," as the ad states at the close. 
 
While Morrisey and 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 (R-W.Va.) spent months largely avoiding Blankenship despite the controversy surrounding his bid and instead locked in a two-way brawl, there are new worries that Blankenship could still win the nomination. 
 
Internal polling first released by The Weekly Standard shows Blankenship in a strong position before Tuesday's primary — a reality that has set off alarm bells among the GOP.
 
President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump admin to announce coronavirus vaccine will be covered under Medicare, Medicaid: report Election officials say they're getting suspicious emails that may be part of malicious attack on voting: report McConnell tees up Trump judicial pick following Supreme Court vote MORE weighed in Monday morning on Twitter to call for voters to back either Morrisey or Jenkins as a way to stop Blankenship. But the two candidates have so far publicly responded to the news very differently.
 
Morrisey has sought to attack Blankenship directly, first for failing to turn in his candidate financial disclosure forms and later on the Upper Big Branch explosion. 
 
Jenkins's campaign has largely avoided attacks on Blankenship, seeking instead to highliught Jenkins's ties to Trump.