Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., could incur a serious challenge from the Republican side in the 2024 Senate race — from the state's highest-ranked government official.
On Monday, West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, told Fox News he's intrigued with contesting Manchin's seat in the Senate chamber.
"I'm very interested," said Justice, a former Democrat who famously jumped to the Republican Party in 2017 after attending a Donald Trump political rally. "I mean, that's all there is to it, and I'm very serious about it. I don't play games with anybody at that point, jerking people around and all that kind of stuff."
Justice then added: "I am a guy who is hung up on the truth. I'm a guy who is hung up on serving. I've never taken one thing from being the governor of this great state. We've taken it from a really tough time into a situation to where now we've got surpluses beyond belief, and we're on the pathway of maybe cutting our personal income tax by 50%."
In a general comment about the current state of American politics, Justice reasoned that "we could lose this nation" without stronger leadership at the top. "And so I am a patriot through and through. And so I am very, very serious about this."
For a while, the 75-year-old Manchin has had the appearance of the most secure Democrat senator operating in a red state. Just last year, a national survey deemed Manchin to have the highest popularity level of any U.S. senator — factoring in Democrats, Republicans, and independents.
Also, Justice, who has supervised a record budget surplus for West Virginia during his tenure, hasn't shared many public criticisms of Manchin.
In fact, Fox News reported that Justice had only one negative thing to say about Manchin during his interview — and it was rather tame in tone.
"One minute Joe's moving in one direction, and another moment he's moving in another direction. And so all that being said, I'm not going to sit here ... and cast stones at Joe," said Justice.
If he should accept the Senate challenge next year, Justice — a billionaire businessman who owns The Greenbrier resort in Sulphur Springs, West Virginia — revealed he "probably wouldn't" self-fund his campaign, while noting that others would need to be "pulling the rope around me."
"I run off [the people's] energy, really, and truly," said Justice.
The Democrats currently control the Senate, when factoring in how Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (reported switch to independent) would seemingly break all ties, given their left-leaning tendencies and voting histories.
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