In a sign of just how worried they were of a Blankenship nomination, top Republicans didn’t much care that their preferred candidate, Representative Evan Jenkins, fell to Morrisey, an ex-lobbyist who had previously run for office in New Jersey before moving to West Virginia. They were just relieved that Blankenship lost, and were quick to embrace the victor.
“Unlike loyal Democrat Joe Manchin, West Virginia families know that they can count on Attorney General Morrisey to fight for conservative values,” said Chris Hansen, the executive director of the National Republican Senate Committee, in a statement.
Jenkins was one of three GOP House members to lose Senate primaries on Tuesday night. The other two were in Indiana, where Republican voters nominated businessman Mike Braun over Representatives Luke Messer and Todd Rokita. The two congressmen were longtime political rivals and had been savaging each other for the better part of a year. Braun, who had run as a political outsider despite a brief stint in the state legislature, took easy advantage. While Messer and Rokita finished just over 5,000 votes apart, Braun won 55,000 votes more than the two of them combined—41.2 percent in all.
Unlike in West Virginia, Republican leaders stayed out of the Indiana race, believing that any of the three candidates would have a decent shot at taking out Democratic Senator Joe Donnelly in November. Trump won the Hoosier State by 19 points and will appear with Braun on Thursday to kick off the general election.
The fourth House Republican to lose on Tuesday night was Representative Robert Pittenger of North Carolina, who wasn’t seeking a promotion but rather just wanted to keep his job. In his bid for a fourth term, Pittenger narrowly lost to conservative Mark Harris, who had nearly ousted him two years ago. With the incumbent out, political forecasters shifted the North Carolina seat toward Democrats, who nominated a well-funded Iraq War veteran and Harvard University graduate, Dan McCready.
In all four states that held primaries on Tuesday—Indiana, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Ohio—Republican candidates for federal office stuck close to the president, who remains popular among GOP primary voters despite his lackluster approval ratings overall. Trump-backed Representative Jim Renacci was one House GOP incumbent who prevailed in a Senate race, easily winning the nomination for the right to take on Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown in Ohio. Party leaders also scored victories in a pair of Ohio congressional contests, where establishment-aligned candidates prevailed over more conservative outsiders in GOP primaries for open seats that will be targeted by Democrats.
Democratic leaders had a less stressful night: In Ohio, Richard Cordray trounced former Representative Dennis Kucinich in a gubernatorial primary. Cordray had resigned his post as director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to make the bid, and he will face former GOP Senator Mike DeWine, currently the state attorney general, in the fall.