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Senate Republicans are pushing West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to challenge Joe Manchin for his Senate seat in 2024, setting up what would be a bruising brawl between two popular politicians, Politico reported.
Justice, himself a former Democrat who flipped during the Trump administration, has been meeting with top GOP leaders, sources told the outlet. Both men are extremely popular in the Mountaineer State, but given its deeply red constituency, Justice would be a formidable opponent for Manchin, who served as governor before moving to the Senate in 2010.
Republicans have long wooed Manchin to make the same party switch Justice made, but to no avail. Manchin is a conservative Democrat who has often been at odds with his increasingly liberal party.
Sources told Politico Justice could announce his entry into the race as early as next month. The multi-millionaire has reportedly put his coal mining company on the block and met with National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines, (R-MT). He has also been in regular contact with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-KY), the outlet reported.
“The governor has a good political sense. So I am assuming that he’s going to get in,” Sen. Shellet Moore Capito, the state’s other U.S. senate representative, said. “It would change things. He has a huge approval rating, he just passed the biggest tax cut in state history. He’s got a lot of good things to talk about.”
Manchin, 75, has not said if he plans to seek re-election but said he isn’t worried about whom he might face in a general election.
“God bless them, it’ll be entertaining to watch their primary. That’s the greatest thing,” Manchin said.
Winning Manchin’s seat would play a big role in helping the GOP retake the majority in the Senate, where they trail the Democrats 51-49. If Justice jumps in, he would face at least one primary opponent in Rep. Alex Mooney, a member of the House Freedom Caucus. Justice campaigned against Mooney in his successful campaign last year against incumbent David McKinley.
A challenge by Justice could put some GOP senators in an awkward position. Manchin, who has voted with Republicans on some key issues over the years, has endorsed moderate Republicans including Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
“He’s a close friend. Should he choose to run again, I would anticipate endorsing him,” said Sen. Susan Collins, of Maine.