President weighs in on GOP primary race to flip Senator Joe Manchin’s seat; Peter Doocy reports from Charleston, West Virginia.
Polls have closed in the closely-watched Republican Senate primaries in West Virginia, Ohio and Indiana, but it’s too early to declare winners, according to the Fox News Decision Desk.
In all three races, voters are picking Republican nominees to take on some of the most vulnerable incumbent Senate Democrats in this year’s midterm elections. Republicans hold a slim 51-49 advantage in the Senate.
In Indiana, businessman Mike Braun is enjoying an early lead against two GOP sitting congressmen, Luke Messer and Todd Rokita. With 16 percent of votes in, Braun has 42 percent, Messer has 29 percent and Rokita has 29 percent.
In recent days, the contest in West Virginia has received the most national attention. It is too early to say whether former coal executive Don Blankenship will beat U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
On Monday, President Trump appealed to the state’s primary voters to oppose Blankenship, arguing he “can’t win” in the general election.
Blankenship served a year in prison on a misdemeanor conviction for conspiring to violate mine safety laws, in connection with the Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in West Virginia in 2010 that killed 29 workers.
Blankenship has also made waves in recent days for airing a campaign ad referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., as “cocaine Mitch.”
Still, Blankenship has won over voters by portraying himself as a true conservative outsider, compared to Jenkins and Morrisey.
The West Virginia Senate race is considered a toss-up in the midterm elections, as Republicans hope to unseat incumbent Joe Manchin, a Democrat who first won the seat in a 2010 special election.
Fox News is projecting that Manchin will easily defeat challenger Paula Jean Swearengin to win the Democratic primary.
In Indiana, Braun is considered the favorite in the state’s GOP Senate primary, where he faces Messer and Rokita. Braun has also spent millions on ads arguing he’s an outsider, but his primary rivals have attacked him over voting records indicating Braun voted in Democratic primaries until 2012.
Braun has responded by saying he is a conservative Republican, but he voted in past Democratic primaries to have a say in local races dominated by Democrats. His rivals have asked who he voted for in the 2008 Democratic primary race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but Braun claims he voted for neither.
Braun was elected to the Indiana State House as a Republican in 2014.
The winner of the race faces incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly.
In Ohio, Rep. Jim Renacci is favored to win the state’s Republican primary on Tuesday and face off against incumbent Sen. Sherrod Brown in November. The Fox News Decision Desk cannot yet project whether Renacci will defeat his rival Republicans.
Renacci faces a crowded Republican field, but has been backed by President Trump.
Also seeking the GOP nomination in Tuesday’s primary are Marysville small business owner Melissa Ackison, Cincinnati-area financial management company founder Daniel Kiley and retired public administrator Don Elijah Eckhart from Galloway.
Fox News’ Ellison Barber, Brooke Singman and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.