'Big lie' and more at stake in Manchin vs. MAGA showdown: The Note

Two incumbents are running against each other in a West Virginia primary.

May 10, 2022, 6:14 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

They might be the nation's most influential Democrat and most powerful Republican -- and this showdown carries implications inside and outside the red state where it's playing out.

Voters in West Virginia on Tuesday will sort through a most unusual and particularly vicious primary. Because the state lost a congressional seat, two incumbent GOP House members are running against each other -- one with the support of former President Donald Trump, the other with the backing of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Manchin's pick, Rep. David McKinley, has been under siege for a few notable votes where he joined Democrats. That list includes support of the bipartisan infrastructure bill -- a boon to rural and impoverished West Virginia, as championed by Manchin -- and a failed bid to create an independent Jan. 6 commission.

Trump's pick, Rep. Alex Mooney, last week called it "insulting" to call Jan. 6 anything other than a protest where "a few people went in" to the Capitol. Mooney, who previously served more than a decade in the state legislature in neighboring Maryland, was praised by Trump recently as a "warrior in every sense of the way" who would help Trump and his supporters "get it all back."

Rep. Alex Mooney at a news conference on the steps of the Capitol, July 29, 2021.
Andrew Harnik/AP, FILE

Trump carried West Virginia by nearly 40 points in 2020; Manchin won his current term by barely 3 points in 2018 to keep his career alive as one of the state's last prominent Democrats. Gov. Jim Justice, a former Democrat who became a Republican during the Trump presidency, has lined up behind McKinley -- Manchin's pick.

Manchin's brand of politics has often enraged progressives across the nation, and backing a Republican in a House race won't win him many new friends.

But if his candidate prevails, it will go down as a victory for the concept of crossing party lines for policy progress -- a vision Manchin happens to share with President Joe Biden. It would also register as a refutation of the "big lie" in a state where Trump could hardly have had stronger results in either of his runs for the presidency.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

With a week ahead until Election Day in North Carolina, one congressional primary is showing signs of Democratic factionalism, with an establishment candidate up against a progressive and a little "American Idol" star power mixed in.

In North Carolina's 4th Congressional District, a safely blue area that includes a few of the state's large research universities, voters will send a new representative to Washington to replace retiring Democratic Rep. David Price.

The leading candidates in the crowded Democratic primary are Clay Aiken of "Idol" fame, who would be the first LGBTQ person to represent North Carolina; Nida Allam, a local lawmaker and the first Muslim woman to hold elected office in the state -- backed by Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren; and Valerie Foushee, a Black state lawmaker widely considered the establishment pick.

North Carolina State Sen. Valerie Foushee.
North Carolina General Assembly

Despite the district's reliably blue status, controversial outside groups have poured millions into the race for Foushee, a move some in the state have interpreted as an effort to tamp down the influence of the party's progressive wing.

Allam supports "Medicare for All" and the Green New Deal, and she has the approval of members of the so-called "squad" of progressive Democratic congresswomen of color.

In Ohio's recent primary, progressive candidates vying for a chance to head to Capitol Hill came up short. Should Allam prevail, it would mark a significant progressive victory this cycle in a battleground state.

The TIP with Brittany Shepherd

There have been no major snafus for Georgians a week into early voting. Despite a brief outage of the state's early vote check-in system last Thursday due to a server glitch, a record number of voters have cast their ballots ahead of schedule. And on the first day of early voting, Georgia polling places saw nearly double the turnout of the June 2020 primary, according to the secretary of state's office.

Georgia Republicans are leading in turnout with 57% of early vote totals, according to data tracked by Georgia Votes. And that shouldn't come as a total shock, as the Republican primary is a truly contentious test of Trump's prowess in the race between incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp and challenger David Perdue, as well as a test of the power of far-right celebrity with the Senate bid of former football star Herschel Walker.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp speaks during a gubernatorial republican primary debate, May 1, 2022, in Atlanta.

GOP voters have a plethora of options, all consequential for both the eventual balance of power in Washington and the impact of election denialism on the ballot.

Voters in Florida may not find voting as easy come their August primary. Federal judges last week reinstated a voting law backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that imposes limits on universal mail-in ballots, restrictions on drop-box hours of operations and bans on certain interactions with voters as they wait in line -- restrictions previously ruled unconstitutional for discriminating against Black voters.

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

9. That’s the number of candidates running for House or governor Tuesday in Nebraska and West Virginia who have embraced or flirted with former President Donald Trump’s "big lie," which falsely claims that the 2020 election was stolen, according to FiveThirtyEight’s research. That said, we also found at least eight candidates running for those two offices who have acknowledged President Joe Biden’s victory. Once again, Trump’s continued influence in the GOP is on the ballot, even though Trump has only endorsed four candidates running for those offices this time around. And, as FiveThirtyEight's Nathaniel Rakich writes, Tuesday’s contests could be a bit of a mixed bag: Two election doubters look set to cruise to victory, while two election affirmers also look likely to prevail.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Start Here begins Tuesday morning with a debrief from ABC’s Ian Pannell on Putin’s Victory Day speech. We then turn to ABC’s Elwyn Lopez on the dramatic end to a search for Alabama fugitives. And, ABC’s Erielle Reshef tells us about the baby formula shortage leaving many American parents without the necessary supply. http://apple.co/2HPocUL


  • At 11:30 a.m., President Joe Biden delivers remarks on his plan to fight inflation and lower costs for working families and contrasts his approach with that of congressional Republicans. The president holds a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy at 2 p.m.
  • White House press secretary Jen Psaki holds a press briefing at 2:30 p.m.
  • Nebraska and West Virginia hold primary elections. Polls open in Nebraska at 9 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. ET. Polls open in West Virginia at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. ET.
  • Early voting begins in New Mexico's primary elections, continuing through June 2.
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