As RedState previously reported, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) is in the midst of a desperate bid to rehabilitate his reputation with West Virginia voters ahead of a potential 2024 reelection matchup that would pit him against someone far more powerful in the state – Republican Gov. Jim Justice.
Manchin’s tactic of choice has been to distance himself as far away as he can from both his party and his president, Joe Biden, for who Manchin has made life more difficult with his ongoing campaign to derail many of Biden’s nominees, including Julie Su, Biden’s pick for Labor Secretary.
Instead, it’s been Manchin’s shadow campaign for reelection to the Senate that’s taken the biggest hit, as new polling for the West Virginia Senate race makes abundantly clear:
In a hypothetical 2024 U.S. Senate matchup in West Virginia, the latest ECU Poll shows Governor Jim Justice with a significant 22-point lead over incumbent Senator Joe Manchin, 54% to 32%, among registered voters in the state (with 13% undecided). The ECU Poll also finds Governor Justice with a job approval rating of 57% (with an overall net positive job approval rating of +28 percentage points; 57% approval compared to 29% disapproval). Senator Manchin, in contrast, holds a job approval rating of just 33% (with an overall net negative job approval rating of -26 percentage points; 33% approval compared to 59% disapproval).
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“Deeper analysis of the approval numbers shows barely half (51%) of self-identified Democrats in West Virginia approve of Senator Manchin’s job performance,” the ECU/Survey Research poll, which surveyed 957 registered voters, also noted.
Some on Twitter joked that at this point Manchin would probably have a better shot of winning the presidency – though not by much – than another Senate term:
One of Manchin’s biggest problems at this point is that he cannot escape the “Democrat” label, with some of his Dem colleagues in the Senate inadvertently making his job harder by pointing out what a good Democrat he’s supposedly been all this time, all while a state that now has more registered Republican voters than Democrats looks on intently.
The other big problem is that West Virginia voters clearly still feel betrayed over Manchin’s deal with Biden and Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) over the bogusly-named Inflation Reduction Act, which saw Manchin get played big time by party leaders while he was left holding the bag.
As a side note to this, though Manchin enjoyed a somewhat convivial working relationship with Donald Trump during his presidency, Trump is a big fan of Justice’s, standing by his side in August 2017 when Justice announced his party switch seven months after he was sworn in as governor.
And make no mistake about it – West Virginia is pure red MAGA country, plain and simple. Trump carried the state handily in both 2016 and 2020, and the poll above indicates that he’d easily win the 2024 GOP primary there over all other contenders.
There is, of course, a lot of time between now and Election Day 2024 for Joe Manchin, who has said he won’t make a decision one way or the other until the end of the year. The problem with that strategy, however, is that there really is no amount of time Manchin could stretch things out where voters in his home state would forget what he’s done.
That may be why he’s also reportedly considering a presidential bid, which I don’t think will happen. Manchin probably thinks the Mountain Valley Pipeline provision inserted into the debt-ceiling package will be enough to placate West Virginia voters, but that might turn out to be a hard sell considering the damage his alliance with Biden and Schumer has already done.
As always, stay tuned.