In one of his ads, Braun walked around with cardboard cutouts of his two opponents, asking ordinary Indianans if they could tell the difference (they couldn't); another ad fictionalized the three candidates as grade-school children, with the kid versions of Messer and Rokita in suits and ties, campaigning for their classmates' votes-"When I'm in Congress, maybe one of you will be my driver. See?"
In his concession speech, Blankenship cited President Trump's Twitter intervention as the main cause of his defeat. The CEO of automotive products firm Meyer Distributing and a former state representative, Braun prided himself on being a businessman who isn't a creature of Washington.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have already scheduled a campaign event in IN on Thursday, indicating the priority the White House is putting on the in race - and their willingness to back whoever emerged from the primary. Trump endorsed the congressman in the primary.
Yet none of Tuesday's other contests was expected to have more impact on the midterm landscape than West Virginia, where Blankenship had embraced Trump's tactics - casting himself as a victim of government persecution and seizing on xenophobia, if not racism - to stand out in a crowded Republican field that included Attorney General Morrisey and Congressman Evan Jenkins. That was illustrated well in an article last week in which the White House legislative liaison Marc Short told Trump that Democrats were all but certain to win back the House. "They've never had a Republican primary with $10 million in it". By itself, Donald Trump's signature legislative achievement remains the most unpopular tax cut in modern American history. Republicans blasted out this statement in response: "Manchin received just 69.8% of the vote against Paula Jean Swearengin, a political novice running on an anti-coal platform". Joe Donnelly - one of the GOP's top Senate targets - ended with a wealthy businessman and former Democrat the victor.
Despite the headwind, Blankenship saw a brief surge in polls days before the ballot was open, spooking Republicans who fear such a divisive figure would be unable to unseat the incumbent Democrat Senator Joe Manchin.
Sabato's Crystal Ball moved the U.S. Senate race from "leans Democrat" to "toss-up" on Wednesday.
Morrisey said the general election won't be one filled with personal attacks, but claimed Manchin has become a creature of Washington. We won't know the answer to that for many years, but the fact that Don Blankenship lost the Republican primary in West Virginia is a hopeful sign.
Blankenship said Tuesday that he "didn't get it done" and "failed West Virginians", but he warned that "the Republican Party needs to be careful about being hijacked". "There are real dangers in tacking too close to Trump", he added.
West Virginia Attorney Gen. Patrick Morrisey won the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate.
Early on Tuesday, I called Nina Turner, the former OH state senator who is now president of Our Revolution, the Bernie Sanders-inspired organization that picked up where his 2016 campaign left off, and which this year has been recruiting progressive candidates around the country. He will now face Democratic Sen. Tremendous voter energy and excitement, and all candidates are those who have a great chance of winning in November.
"He will be a great Governor with a heavy focus on HealthCare and Jobs", Trump wrote.
The tactics of the candidates in Tuesday's elections, winners and losers alike, should put to rest the notion that Trump has lost any of his popularity among the base of voters who elected him in 2016.
With their party out of power, Democratic voters so far have been supportive of mainstream candidates over those from the insurgent wing, and more lenient with their nominees in red states.