Republican West Virginia governor Jim Justice on Thursday formally entered the race to challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D.), who trails the governor in polls of Democrats in the state.
Justice, who was a Democrat before switching parties in August 2017, filed paperwork for a Senate run Thursday but has not formally made an announcement. He has served as governor since 2017 and is widely seen as the most formidable challenger to the centrist Manchin, who is also expected to face a primary challenger. A February poll found Justice beating Manchin by 10 points in a head-to-head race, with other West Virginia Republicans losing to the Democrat.
Among Manchin’s own party, Justice garners more support than the senator. He received 52 percent support from Democrats to Manchin’s 49 percent in a Morning Consult poll this month. Justice’s overall approval rating in the state is at 66 percent, while Manchin is at just 38 percent. Justice first ran for governor as a Democrat and beat his Republican opponent. He then announced his party switch at a rally with then-president Donald Trump.
Facing an increasingly tough reelection bid, Manchin is positioning himself as an opponent of President Joe Biden’s high spending—despite orchestrating Biden's trillion-dollar Inflation Reduction Act. The Democrat helped negotiate its terms last summer and is considered the bill’s "chief architect."