Things to know: National GOP exhales after W.Va. primary

May 9, 2018 GMT

              Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun thanks supporters after winning the republican primary in Whitestown, Ind., Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Braun faced Todd Rokita and Luke Messer in the Republican primary race. Braun advances to a November matchup with Democrat Joe Donnelly, who is considered one of the Senate's most vulnerable incumbents. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

              Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun thanks supporters after winning the republican primary in Whitestown, Ind., Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Braun faced Todd Rokita and Luke Messer in the Republican primary race. Braun advances to a November matchup with Democrat Joe Donnelly, who is considered one of the Senate's most vulnerable incumbents. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

              Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun thanks supporters after winning the republican primary in Whitestown, Ind., Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Braun faced Todd Rokita and Luke Messer in the Republican primary race. Braun advances to a November matchup with Democrat Joe Donnelly, who is considered one of the Senate's most vulnerable incumbents. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun thanks supporters after winning the republican primary in Whitestown, Ind., Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Braun faced Todd Rokita and Luke Messer in the Republican primary race. Braun advances to a November matchup with Democrat Joe Donnelly, who is considered one of the Senate's most vulnerable incumbents. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
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Republican Senate candidate Mike Braun thanks supporters after winning the republican primary in Whitestown, Ind., Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Braun faced Todd Rokita and Luke Messer in the Republican primary race. Braun advances to a November matchup with Democrat Joe Donnelly, who is considered one of the Senate's most vulnerable incumbents. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Key takeaways after voters in Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and West Virginia — all states won in 2016 by Donald Trump — picked nominees for Senate, House and some state offices ahead of the November general elections:

REPUBLICANS TAKE A DEEP BREATH IN APPALACHIA

National Republicans were terrified that West Virginia Republicans might nominate a convicted ex-coal executive for the Senate and give up an opportunity to unseat Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

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But voters relegated Don Blankenship to third place and opted instead for state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Blankenship was defiant until the end after a campaign in which he lambasted Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as a “swamp captain” and “Cocaine Mitch.”

The multimillionaire wouldn’t say whether he’d back Morrisey or Manchin in November, suggesting he still could give party leaders heartburn in the general election.

TRUMP WINS ONE, MUST DECIDE HOW TO TREAT FRIENDLY DEMOCRAT

Republicans followed Trump’s advice, delivered via tweet Monday, and rejected Blankenship.

Now, Trump has to decide how aggressively he’ll back Morrisey over Manchin. The incumbent is the closest thing Trump has to a friend among Senate Democrats.

Manchin said Tuesday he will always be willing to work with the president but expects GOP leaders will make sure the White House backs his opponent.

REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMEN HAVE A BAD DAY

It wasn’t a great night to be sitting congressman.

Lost in Blankenship’s battle in West Virginia was Rep. Evan Jenkins, who finished a quiet second place. He’ll be leaving Congress in January.

Two Republican congressmen from Indiana also wanted a promotion to the Senate. But Todd Rokita and Luke Messer were defeated by Mike Braun, a wealthy businessman and former state lawmaker who ran as the outsider.

Braun will take on Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly this fall.

In North Carolina, Rep. Robert Pittenger became the first House incumbent to lose his seat when Charlotte pastor Mark Harris claimed the GOP nomination.

The seat is among those national Democrats are targeting in November. They need to flip some two dozen GOP-held seats for a majority.

Harris argued he was better positioned for the general election since he doesn’t have the baggage of being an incumbent. He will face a well-financed Democrat, Marine veteran Dan McCready, who has raised almost $2 million.

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OHIO GOVERNOR’S RACE SET

Democratic leaders got the nominee they wanted in Ohio as they try to reclaim the governor’s mansion in a key battleground state.

Richard Cordray, who led the federal consumer protection agency under President Barack Obama, far outpaced liberal former congressman Dennis Kucinich. The results suggest that Ohio Democrats aren’t crippling themselves with any lingering fight between party liberals and establishment figures.

Republicans now will have to close ranks behind state Attorney General Mike DeWine after he dispatched Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor for their party’s nomination for governor.

Both candidates ran to the right of outgoing Gov. John Kasich, leaving Democrats convinced that Cordray can position himself as the more pragmatic, sensible option for independents who twice elected Kasich.

Still, Democrats will have to catch up to GOP turnout in November. Unofficial returns showed 827,039 Republican ballots cast for governor, compared to 679,738 for Democrats, and DeWine got 71,502 more votes in his victory than Cordray did among Democrats.

DEMOCRATS MOLD THEIR ARGUMENT

Democrats’ general election argument started to come into sharper focus: They say they want to help voters by solving problems above the fray.

In Ohio, Cordray congratulated DeWine for “winning one of the ugliest campaigns I have ever seen” and positioned himself as a change agent for working- and middle-class voters.

West Virginia’s Manchin can’t bash Washington as easily since he’s a sitting senator. But the former governor reminded supporters — and voters watching at home on television — of his decades-old brand as a “West Virginia Democrat” who doesn’t judge ideas by the party of their sponsors.

Rep. Jim Renacci bucked the trend in Ohio, winning the GOP Senate nomination. He’ll face Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown in November.

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Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP.