The Republican-Republican blood feud developing in West Virginia is over just one seat in the House, but the outcome of Tuesday’s primaries between Representatives David McKinley and Alex Mooney will point the way to a potential Republican majority in the House. Congress: Will it be a governing party or a purely ideological one, driven by former President Donald J. Trump?

Realignment and West Virginia’s shrinking population forced the state’s Republican legislature to pit Mr. McKinley, a Republican with a pragmatic bent for six terms, against Mr. Mooney, who served four terms characterized more by conservative rhetoric. than by legislative performance.

Mr. McKinley has the support of much of the state power structure, including the governor, Jim Justice, and in recent days his Democratic Senator Joe Manchin III. Mr Mooney may have the endorsement that matters most: Mr Trump’s — in a state that gave the former president 69 percent of the vote in 2020.

Neither candidate could exactly be called a moderate Republican, but Mr. McKinley thought his primary bid would be based on his technocratic achievements, his support for the bipartisan infrastructure bill co-written by Mr. Manchin, and his focus on a state that used to—and still needs—federal attention.

On Thursday, he and Governor Justice were in the state’s northern panhandle, not for a campaign rally, but to visit a high-tech metal alloy factory.

The campaign of Mr. Mooney doesn’t go for nuance. It is built around one thing: Mr Trump’s approval.

The former president sided with Mr. Mooney after Mr. McKinley voted in favor of the infrastructure bill and legislation to create a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol — legislation passed by Republicans. was filibusted in the Senate.

“Alex is the only candidate in this race who has my full support,” Trump said in a statement a radio commercial flooding the state† The former president further taunted Mr. McKinley as a “RINO” – “Republican in name only” – “who supported the fake infrastructure bill that wasted hundreds of billions of dollars on the Green New Deal” and spoke about Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “fake story” on Jan. 6. that “against the interests of West Virginia.”

A TV commercial which also features Mr. Trump, tells viewers that Mr. Mooney defended the former president against Ms. Pelosi’s “Jan. 6 witch hunt.”

Feeling that a high-profile performance campaign just wouldn’t work, Mr. McKinley hit back at “Maryland Mooney” as a carpet dredger — he once led the Maryland Republican Party and ran for office in New Hampshire — who is under investigation by the House Ethics Committee on charges of improperly using campaign dollars and personnel for personal gain.

Most notably, Mr. McKinley turned to a Democrat, Mr. Manchin, for his closing argument.

“Alex Mooney has proven that he is all about Alex Mooney, but the people of West Virginia know that David McKinley is all about us,” said Mr. Manchin in a McKinley campaign ad. He calls Mr. Mooney is also a liar because he suggests that Mr. McKinley supported the far-reaching Climate Change and Social Welfare Act that Mr. Manchin killed.

All of this is somewhat extraordinary in a state where federal generosity has turned politicians like the late Senator Robert C. Byrd and his protégé, Mr. Manchin, into folk heroes. But the state has changed in the Trump era and loyalty has hardened, said Scott Widmeyer, co-founder of the Stubblefield Institute for Civil Political Communications at Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV.

“We’ve seen heated political races, but I don’t think anything has been as filthy and nasty as this,” he said. “Republicans eat their own food.”

Institute officials invited both candidates to a debate, but only Mr. McKinley accepted. They then suggested that the candidates come to the town hall meetings separately. Only Mr. McKinley accepted it.

However, Mr Mooney is the one who exudes confidence. mr. McKinley came into the race with a structural advantage. The state’s newly drawn district includes 19 of the 20 districts Mr. McKinley previously represented and only eight of the 17 districts in Mr. mooney. M. Mooney’s largest population center, the capital in Charleston, was sent to Representative Carol Miller, the only other West Virginian in the House.

But Mr. Trump is popular in every county in West Virginia, and based on his name, Mr. Mooney has posted polls of national and local outfits showing him in double digits for Tuesday’s primary.

Assistants close to McKinley say the race will be close, and as long as Mr. Trump doesn’t invade the state at the last minute for a get-out-the-vote rally, either candidate could still win a low-turnout affair. A campaign official said many voters who have long since left the Democrats, but not their Democratic Party registration, have re-registered as Independents or Republicans to vote against Mooney.

Jonathan Kott, a former spokesperson and adviser to Mr. Manchin, said the Democratic senator has “a real friendship and working relationship” with Mr. McKinley, a point Mr. Manchin made during a local radio interview last week.

But what really prompted the Democratic senator to intervene in a Republican primary wasn’t his friendship with Mr. McKinley, but his anger at Mr. Mooney’s opposition to the infrastructure bill.

“Mooney’s vote against the infrastructure bill shows that he’s not interested in what’s best for West Virginia,” said Mr. kott.

In the radio interview, Mr Manchin also took a swipe at ‘Maryland Mooney’.

“Alex came here, I think, for political opportunity. I can’t think of any other reason,” he told radio host Hoppy Kercheval.

It’s just one House seat in a very special state, but the story of the West Virginia race has caught the attention of a wider audience trying to guess just how tight Mr Trump has the Republican Party in his grip.

“I think we will all look at the results on Tuesday night,” said Mr. Widmeyer, referring to author JD Vance’s come-from-behind victory in the Ohio Republican Senate primary after Mr. Trump endorsed him. “This will be our second week looking at Trump’s influence over one candidate.”

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