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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

America First Policies, the biggest pro-Trump nonprofit group, is spending more than $500k on an ad campaign starting Wednesday, pressuring red-state Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to confirm President Trump's pick for CIA director — Gina Haspel.

State of play: America First believes that Manchin and Independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, are the two most likely non-Republican members of the Senate Intelligence Committee to vote for Haspel. However, the group settled on targeting Manchin because they think he's more likely to break. They also realize that if Manchin votes in Haspel's favor, she'll go to the floor as a bipartisan nominee.

  • America First is also using Mike Pompeo's confirmation to Secretary of State as a lesson: Once Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) announced her support for Pompeo's nomination, other Democrats followed suit — essentially creating a domino effect. The group is hoping Manchin will be that first domino to fall this time around.

Their strategy: Trump is still very popular in West Virginia, and Manchin, who's up for reelection this fall, will have to pick his battles against the GOP very carefully. And voting against Trump's nominee, and the first potential female director of the CIA, may not be one of them.

"You're wrapping national security, president trump and gender politics all into one vote."
— A source involved in the ad buy tells Axios

Timing: The ad's launch comes one day after the West Virginia Senate primary, which has quickly become one of the most-watched senate races in the country, thanks to GOP candidate Don Blankenship — whose vulgar attacks on the government and high-profile Republicans have drawn national attention.

The bottom line: Most Republican strategists following this race believe Manchin will be in a relatively safe position if Blankenship — who Trump says has no chance of securing the vote — wins, given they think he's an unelectable candidate.

  • But, if either of Blankenship's Republican challengers, Rep. Evan Jenkins or Patrick Morrisey, wins, they’re betting they can squeeze Manchin on several key issues ahead of the midterm elections given how heavily supportive the state is of Trump.

What they're saying: "Joe Manchin has a difficult decision to make between supporting an experienced woman with stellar credentials at the CIA or siding with Chuck, Nancy and the rest of the liberal DC swamp crowd," Brian Walsh, the president of America First Policies, told Axios.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - World

At least 125 dead in western India after landslides, monsoon flooding

Vehicles driving through a flooded street in Mumbai on July 19. Photo: Pratik Chorge/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

At least 125 people are dead after monsoon rains triggered landslides in the western Indian state of Maharashtra, authorities said on Saturday, according to Reuters.

State of play: Downpours lasting several days have impacted hundreds of thousands of people, as major rivers are in danger of breaking through their banks.

Updated 3 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

🚨: China wins 1st gold of Tokyo Olympics

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🎾: Athlete spotlight - Naomi Osaka looks to snag gold on home soil

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🇺🇸: "What an honor it is to watch you soar," first lady tells U.S. Olympians

🥇: The six new sports at Tokyo 2020

💉 About 100 U.S. Olympic athletes are unvaccinated

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

3 hours ago - Sports

China wins 1st gold of Tokyo Olympics

Silver medalist Anastasiia Galashina of Russia, gold medalist Yang Qian of China and bronze medalist Nina Christen of Switzerland celebrate on the podium after the 10m air rifle women's final. Photo:

China's Yang Qian won the first gold of the Tokyo Olympics, narrowly beating Anastasiia Galashina of the Russian Olympic Committee in the women's 10-meter air rifle final.

Why it matters: The first medal ceremony of the Games took on extra meaning after a year-long delay and other hurdles brought on by the pandemic. Athletes are required to hang medals around their own necks in an effort to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.