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Figures of Trump in the West Virginia House Race

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The growing Republican-Republican blood feud in West Virginia involves just one House seat, but the outcome of Tuesday’s primary between Reps. David McKinley and Alex Mooney will signal the direction of a potential Republican majority in Congress: will it be a party? of governance or purely ideological, supported by former President Donald J. Trump?

West Virginia’s redistricting and shrinking population forced the Republican state legislature to pit Mr. McKinley, a six-term Republican with a pragmatic bent, against Mr. Mooney, who served four more rhetorically marked terms conservative than by legislative achievements.

Mr. McKinley has the support of much of the state’s power structure, including its Governor, Jim Justice, and, in recent days, its Democratic Senator, Joe Manchin III. Mr. Mooney, however, may have the endorsement that matters most: Mr. Trumps in a state that gave the former president 69% of the vote in 2020.

Neither candidate could exactly be called a moderate Republican, but Mr. McKinley thought his main candidacy would hinge on his technocratic achievements, his support for the bipartisan infrastructure bill co-authored by Mr. Manchin and of its attention to a state accustomed to and always needing the attention of the federal government.

On Thursday, he and Governor Justice were in the upstate begging, not for a campaign rally but to tour a high-tech metal alloy plant.

Mr Mooneys campaign is not going to nuance. His is built around one thing: Mr. Trump’s endorsement.

The former president sided with Mr Mooney after Mr McKinley voted for the Infrastructure Bill as well as legislation to create a bipartisan commission to look into the January 6 attack 2021 against Capitol legislation that was blocked by Republicans in the Senate.

Alex is the only candidate in this race who has my full and complete endorsement, Mr. Trump said in a radio ad covering the state. The former president continues to blast Mr. McKinley as a RINO Republican in name only who backed the bogus infrastructure bill that wasted hundreds of billions of dollars on the Green New Deal and the bogus narrative of the President Nancy Pelosis on January 6 that went against the interests of West Virginia.

A TV advert also featuring Mr Trump tells viewers that Mr Mooney defended the former president from Ms Pelosis’ witch hunt on January 6.

Feeling that any ambitious achievement campaign just wasn’t going to work, Mr McKinley hit back at Maryland Mooney as a baggage handler, he once led the Republican Party in Maryland and ran for office in New Hampshire that is under investigation by House Ethics. Committee on charges of misusing campaign money and staff for personal gain.

More remarkably, Mr. McKinley turned to a Democrat, Mr. Manchin, for his closing argument.

Alex Mooney has proven he’s all about Alex Mooney, but West Virginians know David McKinley is all about us, Manchin says in a McKinley campaign ad. He also calls Mr Mooney a liar for implying that Mr McKinley supported the far-reaching climate change and social welfare bill that Mr Manchin killed.

All of this is somewhat extraordinary in a state where federal largesse made politicians like the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd and his protege, Mr. Manchin, folk heroes. But the state has changed in the Trump era and loyalties have hardened, said Scott Widmeyer, co-founder of the Stubblefield Institute for Civilian Political Communications at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV.

We’ve seen heated political races, but I don’t think anything has been as nasty and dirty as this, he said. Republicans eat themselves.

Institute officials invited the two candidates for a debate, but only Mr. McKinley accepted. They then suggested that the candidates come separately to the public meetings. Only Mr. McKinley accepted.

Mr. Mooney is the confident one though. Mr. McKinley entered the race with a structural advantage. The newly drawn District of States includes 19 of the 20 counties Mr. McKinley previously represented and only eight of the 17 counties in Mr. Mooneys’ current district. Mr. Mooneys’ largest population center, Charleston’s capital, was sent to Rep. Carol Miller, the only other West Virginian in the House.

But Mr. Trump is popular in every West Virginia county, and on the strength of his name, Mr. Mooney released polls from state and local outfits showing him in double digits ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

Aides close to Mr. McKinley say the race will be tight, and as long as Mr. Trump doesn’t rush into the state at the last minute for a ballot rally, either candidate could still win. a low participation rate. adventure. A campaign official said many voters who had long abandoned Democrats but not their Democratic Party registration re-registered as Independents or Republicans to vote against Mr Mooney.

Jonathan Kott, a former spokesperson and adviser to Mr. Manchin, said the Democratic senator had a genuine friendship and working relationship with Mr. McKinley, a point Mr. Manchin made in an interview with the local radio last week.

But what seems to have really prompted the Democratic senator to intervene in a Republican primary was not his friendship with Mr. McKinley but his anger at Mr. Mooney’s opposition to the infrastructure bill.

Mooneys’ vote against the infrastructure bill shows he’s not interested in what’s best for West Virginia, Kott said.

In the radio interview, Mr. Manchin also hit out at Maryland Mooney.

Alex came here, I think, for a political opportunity. I see no other reason, he told radio host Hoppy Kercheval.

It’s just one House seat in a very particular state, but the story of the race in West Virginia has caught the attention of a wider audience trying to figure out how much Mr Trump cares the Republican Party firmly in its grip.

I think everyone will be watching the comebacks on Tuesday night, Mr. Widmeyer said, referring to author JD Vances’ win from behind in the Republican Senate primary in Ohio after Mr. Trump endorsed it. This will be the second week of looking at Trump’s influence on a candidate.

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