GOP West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, the turncoat who switched allegiances from Democratic to Republican to support the now indicted Trump, has announced that he is filing to run against Joe Manchin for the WV US Senate seat. Of course, West Virginia is a red and reddening state, where most expect only Manchin or one or two others to be viable as Democrats, so this will immediately get top billing among senate contests in 2024. Justice’s announcement, and his viability as a challenger probably places this race in a lean-R or even likely-R territory.
Manchin is a famous thorn, and target of ire by Democrats, as recently he has been the fulcrum around which the Democratic Senate could or could not operate. Considerably to the right of even other conservative Democrats, he has stymied the party on a range of policies, especially environmental, but including labor, welfare and general spending as well. However, given the precarious position of the Senate, he was often defended or tolerated with comments such as “well, its either him, or a Republican.” “Without him, we get nothing, so settle for a bit less now, rather than nothing”, or “who else do you have?”. It has also been said that eventually in WV, given a choice between a Democrat who votes and acts like a Republican-lite or the real thing, the voters there will eventually pick the actual Republican.
Theories about his ability to squeak through as a Democrat in a state as red as WV will be tested. I doubt he has much sympathy from the national grassroots and I think he will probably not get the same level of support or activist enthusiasm as other Democrats defending seats in 2024. Can he cheat political death? It is still early, and no one knows what the political climate will be like during the height of a presidential year, so of course anything is possible.