Things got a whole lot more interesting this week in the 2024 West Virginia Senate race as Jim Justice, the state’s popular Republican Governor, officially threw his hat into the ring in what is expected to be a hotly contested battle for a seat Democrats are desperately trying to keep.
Meanwhile, though his potential opponent, Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin, says he hasn’t decided whether he’ll run for reelection (and won’t announce until the end of the year), he’s been really busy doing things that would suggest to even to the casual observer that he wants to hold on to the seat beyond 2024.
How has he been doing that? Mainly by way of two key strategies, each of which have a lot to do with the other:
1) Distancing himself from the “Democrat” label, to the point that he told one reporter during a recent interview that he “identified as an American” when asked if he identified as Democrat.2) Running away from President Joe Biden and the Inflation Reduction Act, which became law thanks in part to Manchin’s flip flop, as fast as he can.
There are complications to this plan, of course, because though Manchin has indeed given Senate Democrats and Biden headaches from time to time, his record of standing with Joe Biden nearly 90% of the time speaks for itself.
And though that’s something you won’t hear Manchin brag about, some of his more far-left colleagues in the Senate are not hesitating to accidentally and emphatically say the quiet part out loud, as happened Friday when Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) was asked by CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju his thoughts on Manchin.
“Joe Manchin voted with us on all of the key measures that really forged a new era for the Democratic party,” Blumenthal stated. “And he may be taking different positions now that prompt some disagreement. But at heart, he’s a Democrat and he votes with Democrats. I’m a strong supporter of Joe Manchin to stay in the United States Senate.”
Rest assured that whoever it is who wins the GOP Senate primary in West Virginia next year, whether it be Justice or Rep. Alex Mooney, that clip is going to be played on loop in the ads they run against Manchin prior to the election should he decide to run again.
Though some have pointed out that Manchin has had no problems in the past winning elections as a Democrat in a Republican state, the problem for Manchin at this point is that West Virginia now has more registered Republicans than Democrats and has gotten redder by the day, as also evidenced by Manchin’s narrow election victory in 2018 where he might have lost had it not been for the Libertarian nominee.
Also, he has never taken on an opponent like Justice, who not only has the backing of the NRSC (and who is reportedly close to former President Donald Trump) but who also has a built-in war chest of his own to match Manchin’s. Plus, Justice’s approval rating among Democrats is actually higher than Manchin’s, which just goes to show how deeply unpopular Manchin is in his home state with voters in both major political parties.
My prediction in this race is that Manchin either decides not to run for reelection or he’ll run as an independent while continuing to try to distance himself from his party and his president. But again, as I noted earlier, Manchin’s record speaks far louder for Manchin than anything Manchin himself has to say.