What 4 States to Watch in Today's Primaries

May 08, 2018 - 3:16 pm

(CBS NEWS) -- How to watch the West Virginia primaries:

What: West Virginia's Senate Primary for the 2018 midterm elections

Who: Republican and Democratic candidates

Date: Tuesday, May 8, 2018

When: Polls close at 7:30 p.m. ET

Online: Watch the live stream on CBSN

Who are the Democratic candidates?

Sen. Joe Manchin, the Democratic incumbent

Paula Jean Swearengin 

Who are the Republican candidates?

Don Blankenship 

Bo Copley 

Evan Jenkins

Patrick Morrisey 

Jack Newbrough 

Tom Willis

West Virginia is holding what are probably the most closely watched primaries today, but Indiana, Ohio and North Carolina are also holding primary elections. 

Here's CBS News' political director Caitlin Conant's take on all the races today:

West Virginia: Senate

Don Blankenship is the former CEO of Massey Energy who served a year in prison for conspiring to violate mine safety rules following the Upper Big Branch Mining disaster in 2010, which took the life of 29 miners. He is running an anti-establishment and nativist campaign, criticizing his challengers for being career politicians and describing his involvement in the mine disaster as a conspiracy theory. 

Until Blankenship's recent surge in the polls, his competitors -- Rep. Jenkins and Morrisey, the state's attorney general -- have spent their time fighting each other and splitting up the establishment vote. In the final stretch, they have turned their focus toward Blankenship, reminding voters that he is a criminal and therefore unelectable. Still, Morrisey refused to rule out supporting Blankenship if he ends up on the ticket this fall. 

All three candidates are throwing their arms around Mr. Trump, embracing his agenda and trying to outflank each other. While national Republicans associated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have spent over $1 million targeting Blankenship, the president did not weigh in until the eve of the primary, tweeting that West Virginia voters should support Morrisey or Jenkins because Blankenship will be unelectable this fall. 

Indiana: Senate, House

Polls close: 7 p.m. ET

The Senate: GOP Reps. Luke Messer and Todd Rokita are running against Indiana businessman and former state representative Mike Braun. Braun is running a campaign as a businessman and Washington outsider, dubbing his opponents the "swamp creatures" and asking voters if they can distinguishbetween the two career politicians. 

 All three are in a race to out-Trump each other: Braun is running against career politicians and vowing to drain the swamp, Rokita wore a MAGA hat in one ad and also supported a resolution to end the special counsel's investigation, and Messer discussed his pro-life and pro-Trump agenda in his ads. Messer is also one of 18 Republicans who nominated President Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize for his North Korea work.

The Indiana Senate race is shaping up to be one of the most expensive in the country as Republicans try to flip Democrat Sen. Joe Donnelly's seat. Republicans are hoping that Mr. Trump's 19-point victory over Hillary Clinton will translate to votes for a Republican Senator. But Donnelly won Indiana by six points in 2012 when Obama lost the state by 10 points, and he is now using his opponents' Trump embrace and his policies to raise money and rally his base.

What to watch for after Tuesday:

Mr. Trump got 56 percent of the vote in 2016, but his approval rating is now below 50 percent. Do some of his voters have buyers' remorse? If so, will the GOP Senate candidates' Trump-hugging haunt them in the general election?

Will Trump supporters who are still happy with him necessarily turn up to support Senate candidates in the midterms? Is running on Trump enough of a motivator?

Will incumbents like Donnelly fighting to hold onto seats in red states face the backlash of voters unhappy with a do-nothing Congress, even though Democrats are no longer in charge?

The House: House race to watch: Establishment Republicans are pushing for Vice President Mike Pence's older brother Greg to fill the 6th District seat held by Rep. Messer, who is now running for U.S. Senate. This is the same seat Mike Pence represented in Congress and is a safe GOP seat. Rep. Rokita also vacated a safe GOP primary seat in the 4th District.

Ohio: Gubernatorial, Senate, House

Polls close: 7:30 p.m. ET

Gubernatorial: On the Democratic side, Dennis Kucinich is running as a progressive against centrist and former Consumer Financial Protection Bureau chief Richard Cordray, splitting over gun control, the Columbus Dispatch notes. On the Republican side, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and state Attorney General Mike DeWine are playing a game of who is closer to Mr. Trump, despite the fact that both supported Kasich in the 2016 presidential primary.

Senate: Sen. Sherrod Brown is a popular Democratic senator running unopposed. On the Republican side, Trump-backed Rep. Jim Renacci faces businessman Mike Gibbons in Tuesday's GOP primary. Renacci is a popular Cleveland representative.

House: OH-12: The race to replace Rep. Pat Tiberi includes 17 major-party candidates. The establishment GOP candidates are splitting support among themselves, while the House Freedom Caucus' Jim Jordan's endorsed candidate, Melanie Leneghan, is running to the right of them all. 

Voters in Ohio's 12th District will cast votes for two primaries tonight -- they will vote for the GOP and Democratic candidates who will compete in the special election on Aug. 7 that will decide who will fill the last five months of Tiberi's term. They will also vote for the two candidates who will face off again in November to decide who will fill the full two-year term starting January 2019. Presumably voters would pick the same candidates for both, but split-ticket voters could potentially make things interesting. Democrats will also determine challengers to GOP congressmen in other Ohio districts that they are hoping to take from GOP incumbents-- Rep. Steve Chabot in the 1st District, Rep. Mike Turner in the 10th District, Rep. Dave Joyce in the 14th District and Rep. Steve Stivers in the 15th District.

What to watch for after Tuesday:

Sherrod Brown and President Trump see eye to eye on many trade enforcement policies, and Mr. Trump won Ohio by eight points in 2016. Will he hold his punches on the president?

Will GOP House incumbents embrace Trump or distance themselves?

Will the president's attacks on a do-nothing Congress and broken Washington suppress GOP turnout and hurt GOP incumbents?

North Carolina: House

Polls close: 7:30 p.m. ET

House:  North Carolina's 9th and 13th Districts lean Republican. Incumbent GOP Rep. Robert Pittenger in the 9th faces a Republican primary challenge, and his Democratic challenger Dan McCready has raised almost twice as much money as Pittenger. McCready is a businessman and former Marine who served in Iraq, and he's running against a career politician. 

Incumbent GOP Rep. Ted Budd in the 13th District has been able to talk about bucking the party. Mr. Trump won his suburban district by nine points but has since lost popularity.

What to watch for after Tuesday:

Pittenger has been forced to move to the right during his primary, embracing Mr. Trump and his policies, but this may hurt him in the general.

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Tom Steyer, a prominent Democratic fundraiser, has endorsed Dan McCready. According to a Steyer spokesperson, he has not endorsed McCready.