“Months of intraparty acrimony have built up to this: high-profile Republican primaries Tuesday to take on three of the Senate’s most vulnerable incumbents. … These first Senate primaries of note—in Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia—come with six months until Election Day and Republicans’ one-seat hold on the chamber as tenuous as ever. While Republicans see a handful of potentially strong nominees, as well as one possible spoiler, for Democrats the outcome is less important than the process.”
“The one exception to GOP optimism about its roster of candidates could come in West Virginia if ex-convict Don Blankenship prevails. … It’s particularly troublesome coming in West Virginia, of all states. Among the 10 Democrats running for reelection in states Trump carried, Sen. Joe Manchin faces by far the most daunting presidential-election margin, as Trump defeated Hillary Clinton there by 42 points.” (National Journal)
“Republican primary voters in West Virginia and Indiana are set to shape the future of Donald Trump’s anti-establishment political revolt on Tuesday, while testing the president’s own ability to steer the passions he helped unleash.”
“Privately, Republican leaders have discussed cutting ties with Blankenship should he win the primary, in an effort to protect other GOP candidates from the controversy that surrounds him.”
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) “said he hopes Blankenship doesn’t prevail, ‘but if he does, I think you’ll see a lot of Republicans giving a contribution to Joe Manchin. I certainly will.’”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “who prides himself on being unruffled by crises, has been making light of the Blankenship predicament in private. With a few friends, according to two people, he has begun answering his phone with the moniker ‘Cocaine Mitch.’” (Washington Post)
LATEST TALLY. According to an analysis of broadcast and national network and cable buys, Republican candidates in Indiana “have combined to air almost 21,000 ads. Another 8,200 ads have aired by interest groups involved in that race.”
“The GOP nomination race in West Virginia” has seen “nearly 19,000 ads through May 3rd.” Former Massey CEO Don Blankenship (R) “has aired over 10,000 ads” alone.
Americans For Prosperity has aired 15,100 ads in Senate races in Indiana, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin.
Majority Forward has aired nearly 6,000 ads in Arizona, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, and West Virginia.
Save My Care has aired nearly 7,000 in Arizona and Nevada. (Wesleyan Media Project)
HILL AT THE TOP. “When the Senate reconvenes this week, one of the first items of business will be the confirmation of six more of President Donald Trump’s federal judicial nominees. … McConnell has taken advantage of the GOP’s numbers and Senate rule changes to prioritize the confirmation of judges to lifetime appointments, putting a strong conservative imprint on the courts that could also pay dividends for the party’s Senate candidates in a rocky election season.” (NBC)
HASPEL. “Senate Republican leaders and White House officials are confident they will be able to confirm Gina Haspel to lead the CIA by the end of the month, barring any explosive revelation at her confirmation hearing this week.”
“Manchin is considered highly likely to support her. … Other Democrats who could back Haspel include” Sens. Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and and Bill Nelson (D-FL), “who said Monday he is ‘considering’ whether to vote for her.”
“But officially, no Democrats have come out in support of Haspel’s nomination, many reasoning that there is no need to take a position before she has even been cleared by the Intelligence Committee.” (Politico)
Sen. Martin Henrich (D-NM), “ a member of the Senate intelligence committee,” “said he would not vote for … Haspel … after a meeting Monday at which she failed to satisfactorily answer questions about her background in the agency.” Sen. Angus King (I-ME) “said he still has questions even after meeting with Haspel. He said he’s waiting to see what she says at her hearing.” (NBC)
CASHING IN. Ongoing negotiations to roll back regulations under the 2010 Dodd-Frank law could be a “potential win for the 17 Senate Democrats who voted for the upper chamber’s version. They’ve managed to thread a narrow political needle, working to craft a bill palatable to both moderate lawmakers and bankers while deflecting heat from progressive colleagues. … And few may benefit more than the red-state Democrats facing competitive elections in November.” Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Manchin, and Donnelly have received donations from banks affected by the legislation. (National Journal)