'Moderate' Manchin ripe for the picking, say observers

'Moderate' Manchin ripe for the picking, say observers

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) (left) at a bill signing with President Joe Biden and other Senate Democrats. (AP)

'Moderate' Manchin ripe for the picking, say observers

Conservative pundits are optimistic Republicans in West Virginia will be able to oust Democrat Joe Manchin from his Senate seat next year – and they think the state's current governor might just be the fellow to pull it off.


If the GOP has hopes of picking off a Democrat in the U.S. Senate in 2024, Manchin's seat may be the "heaviest of low-hanging fruit," says Intelligencer columnist and political observer Ed Kilgore. "West Virginia [is] a state that has trended massively toward the GOP as the moderate-to-conservative Democrat has held on by his fingernails," Kilgore writes of Manchin.

Hoping to pry Manchin's fingers loose is West Virginia Governor Jim Justice (R), who had been hinting for months that he would throw his hat into the ring for the GOP's Senate nomination. He will face Congressman Alex Mooney, who declared his candidacy back in November and is a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus.

Robert Knight is a conservative activist and a columnist for The Washington Times. He believes Manchin's days in the Senate are numbered, despite having done "a couple of good things" from the conservative perspective.

Robert Knight Knight

"He stopped a couple of very bad ideas, such as eliminating the filibuster and passing a voting bill that would have just destroyed any election integrity measures," Knight tells AFN. "[But] he also voted for massive spending in the trillions that was directed mainly toward left-wing causes."

The conservative columnist argues the fact remains that Manchin is a Democrat … which, to Knight, indicates the sitting senator is okay with perhaps the rest of the party's radical agenda – and which means he's vulnerable in a reelection bid.

"Republicans in West Virginia ought to be able to oust him and put in a conservative," says Knight. "Senator Manchin pretends he's conservative at times – but he's still a Democrat [who] backs their party platform, which is as radical a document as you're going to find."

Knight contends that whoever the Republicans choose to run should be favored in the upcoming election.

Justice already leading Manchin in polls

The Intelligencer's Kilgore points to a recent battery of polls that clearly show Governor Justice is significantly more popular than Manchin among West Virginia voters. Those polls show Justice with an overall job-approval ratio of 66-31; whereas Manchin – who has served in the Senate since 2010 – is "underwater" among all voters (38-55) and trails the governor even among Democrats.

Dr. Jameson Taylor, director of policy and legislative affairs at American Family Association, cites a different source – a survey by the Tarrance Group – that shows Justice as the only potential GOP candidate with a lead over Manchin.

Taylor, Dr. Jameson (AFA Action) Taylor

"Polling shows [the governor] leading by wide margins with West Virginia voters – and part of the reason for this is because Justice has a pretty good conservative track record," says the public policy analyst. "He embraced Trump early on; he can self-finance his own campaign; he's a self-made businessman who doesn't have to answer to any big donors or business interests. He's also a working guy who made his money in farming and in coal."

As for Manchin, Taylor contends West Virginia voters don't really know who their Democratic senator is anymore. Manchin's record, he says, "is all over the map."

"It looks like he's just taking votes based upon what the polls say and which direction the wind is blowing – and West Virginia voters really want somebody who they can count on, somebody who is reliable," he tells AFN.

"I think some voters, especially more moderate voters, are okay with Manchin," he continues, "but they want somebody better. They want somebody who they can count on, that they actually know what they're going to be getting. And with Jim Justice it's clear what you're going to be getting."

Which, in Taylor's opinion, makes him "a good pick" for Republicans in West Virginia going into the 2024 election.

Manchin has yet to officially announce if he's planning to run for another six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

Editor's Note: The American Family Association is the parent organization of the American Family News Network, which operates AFN.net.