CHARLESTON, WV (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence made his second stop in West Virginia in the past three months to rally for Republican U.S. Senate nominee Patrick Morrisey on Saturday night.
This time, Pence urged residents to get out and vote in the Nov. 6 election in a state where President Donald Trump breezed to victory in 2016 — and where registered Democrats far outnumber Republicans.
Accompanied by Morrisey, Pence gave a half-hour speech at the North Central West Virginia Airport in Bridgeport, not far from the home base of Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, a Marion County native.
Both Pence and Morrisey encouraged the audience to take someone with them to the polling place.
“Friends don’t let friends vote alone,” Pence said. “Grab a friend. Grab a family member.”
Pence noted that for the party that’s in the White House, “that first midterm election is always a challenge. The conventional wisdom is we’re going to have a hard time winning on Nov. 6. But we all know what President Donald Trump thinks of conventional wisdom.”
Voter turnout was paltry in the last midterm election in West Virginia. In November 2014, just 37.4 percent of registered voters cast ballots — the lowest for a regular general election since the secretary of state’s office started keeping such records in 1950.
According to the secretary of state’s office, 41.9 percent of West Virginia’s 1.24 million registered voters are Democrats while 32.4 percent are Republicans. But the election could be decided by the 22 percent of voters with no party affiliation.
“This is going to be a close election,” Morrisey said. “I need your help to get over the edge.”
Both Pence and Morrisey reminded the audience that the early voting period in the state starts this week. It runs from Oct. 24 through Nov. 3. Pence said West Virginia has an opportunity now just like it had in 2016 when Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 42 percentage points.
“West Virginia led then,” Pence said. “It’s time for West Virginia to lead again on election night on Nov. 6 when you send Patrick Morrisey to the United States Senate. It will set the tone.”
In July, Pence attended a rally and private fundraiser for Morrisey in Wheeling. Trump held rallies for Morrisey in the past two months in Charleston and Wheeling.
On Wednesday Manchin’s campaign released an ad featuring endorsements from several West Virginia sports legends: Alabama football coach and Marion County native Nick Saban, West Virginia University basketball coach Bob Huggins, and NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West, a native of Chelyan.
Manchin noted in a statement Saturday night that Morrisey is from New Jersey.
“I’m proud to have true West Virginia friends like Bob Huggins, Jerry West, and Nick Saban,” Manchin said.