Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Poll: Jim Justice Is the Strongest Republican against Manchin

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is in for the fight of his life next year, no matter who the Republican candidate is. West Virginia voted for Donald Trump by 40 points in 2020 and no Democrats other than Manchin hold state or federal office. Manchin is hanging on simply because he has been around forever and everyone knows him.

A new poll from the Tarrance Group, a Republican outfit, shows that Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV), a coal billionaire and the richest person in the state, is by far the favorite of Republican primary voters. In a three-way contest with AG Patrick Morrisey (R), who ran against Manchin in 2018, and Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), who is already in the race, Justice gets 53%, Morrisey gets 21%, and Mooney get 16%.

The poll also has Justice beating Manchin by 10 points, while Manchin crushes both Morrisey and Mooney. However, this poll needs to be taken with an ample helping of salt. It was commissioned by the Senate Leadership Fund, controlled by Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is keenly aware of the role of "candidate quality" in Senate races. The whole thing could possibly be intended to urge Justice to get into the race. In that case, some of the numbers might be "George Santos" quality. Would McConnell tolerate releasing a fudged poll in order to convince his favored candidate to enter the race? Hmmmm... On the other hand, "Big Jim" Justice has been elected governor twice, so he is genuinely popular in the state.

Justice hasn't said yet whether he will run. He is now term-limited. On the other hand, he would be 73 on swearing-in day and as the junior senator from one of the poorest states in the country would be a step down from being a governor. Of course, by throwing his money around, he might be able to get more done than the typical junior senator.

If Justice jumps in, Manchin could avoid a fight by simply deciding to run for governor instead of for reelection. He has already served as governor and would probably win that race. That would be the ultimate thumb-in-the-eye to all the Democrats who have been screaming at him for 2 years. He could even paraphrase Richard Nixon after Nixon's 1962 defeat for governor of California, when Nixon told the media: "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore." (V)

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