GOP hopes tough primary doesn’t hurt chances to win West Virginia Senate seat

Don Blankenship, Evan Jenkins, and Patrick Morrissey are running for the seat.

"Isn't there enough toxic sludge in Washington?" the super PAC's ad says after connecting Blankenship's business to contaminated water.

"The Russians and McConnell should both stop interfering with elections outside their jurisdictions," Blankenship said in a statement. "McConnell should not be in the U.S. Senate, let alone be the Republican Majority Leader. He is a Swamp captain."

"The Never Trump movement has turned into the Never Blankenship movement," the statement said.

Meanwhile Blankenship, a millionaire, has poured his own money into funding advertisements across the state that showcase him as a "political prisoner," and defend his association with the biggest mining disaster in 40 years. In attack ads, he's also taken on Morrissey for his D.C. lobbyist past and Jenkins for once being a Democrat. Both are considered mainstream candidates national Republicans would be comfortable backing -- President Trump was even sandwiched between the two at his recent tax roundtable in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

"People have been burned by bad candidates being nominated and people don't want to see the same mistakes [in West Virginia]," a national Republican strategist told ABC News. "We see West Virginia as a very good pick up opportunity — Manchin's approval ratings have been plummeting since Trump and Pence came out against him."

Blankenship, who has been flying back and forth between his primary residence outside of Las Vegas, Nevada and West Virginia campaign stops around the state, maintains that he's the one to beat Manchin in November.

"I think just about anyone can beat Manchin, but I will be the one to beat him," Blankenship told ABC News in a recent interview.

But for many in the state, the memories of the Upper Big Branch explosion are still raw, and Blankenship's name is forever connected.

When asked by ABC what he would say to people who feel he is responsible, Blankenship talked about the importance of mine safety but then added, "most of what's said about the explosion, particularly by the media is untrue, and what was said by the government was untrue."

Blankenship has painted himself as a victim of an Obama administration-led conspiracy against him in an effort to rehabilitate his reputation in connection to Upper Big Branch.

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