We’re still six weeks – to the day! – away from the 2022 election, but Republicans are already looking ahead to 2024 and the prospect of knocking off West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin.
West Virginia GOP Gov. Jim Justice acknowledged in a local newspaper interview that he is considering a bid against Manchin. “I don’t really know what I’m going to do right yet,” Justice said. “Maybe you’ll see me … you know … sticking around and running for national office. But right now, I don’t know.”
Asked directly about the 2024 Senate race, Justice said: “I guess it’s possible. Who knows?”
Justice isn’t the only Republican already circling Manchin. Last month, West Virginia Republican Rep. Alex Mooney ran an ad blasting Manchin for supporting the Inflation Reduction Act.
“Suddenly, Joe Manchin is backing Joe Biden’s liberal agenda,” the ad’s narrator said. “Manchin is supporting legislation that would raise our taxes, tax our coal industry and devastate West Virginia communities.”
Asked over the summer whether he was considering a challenge to Manchin, Mooney told CNN that it was “an after-November decision,” which, you will rightly note, is not a “no.”
It’s not hard to see why Republicans are falling all over themselves for the chance to run against Manchin. Donald Trump won West Virginia by a whopping 39 points in 2020 and it is BY FAR the most Republican state currently represented by a Democrat in the Senate.
Manchin has been able to win in the past thanks to his strong bipartisan brand in the state, although his margins have been shrinking. He won with 61% of the vote in 2012, but barely scraped by with 50% in 2018.
With 2024 being a presidential election year, Republican turnout will likely be high – complicating Manchin’s math. And if Justice does decide to run for Senate, he has two things going for him: 1) He is quite popular, having won a second term in 2020 with roughly 63% of the vote. 2) He is very, very wealthy. (Forbes deemed Justice to be the richest person in the state in 2018.)
The Point: If the 2022 election pans out how we think it will, either party will have control of the Senate by a very thin margin. Which means that Manchin’s seat will be at the absolute center of the fight for the majority come 2024.