The road to a GOP Senate majority begins in West Virginia, according to pollsters and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC).
The 2024 West Virginia Senate race could decide whether or not the GOP takes back the Senate majority for the first time in four years, and the GOP looks poised to flip the seat red, according to the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. The group has placed West Virginia in the “Leans Republican” category, indicating their belief that the GOP can win the state.
“Overall, the GOP appears well-positioned in West Virginia, their top target,” a report from UVA’s Center for Politics stated. “If they flip that state and hold everything they currently have, they just need one more seat to get to 51, an outright majority no matter what happens in the presidential race.”
The seat is currently held by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who was first elected in 2010 and previously served as the governor of the state. Manchin has not announced whether he will be seeking reelection, and has not ruled out running for president on a third-party ticket.
Incumbent Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced his candidacy for the Senate seat in April. There will be a primary election as Republican West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney is also seeking the nomination.
“West Virginia is a must,” Jim McLaughlin, president and partner of polling firm McLaughlin and Associates, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “The good news is Manchin is done. His numbers are horrible right now in West Virginia.”
McLaughlin said Manchin’s role in passing the Inflation Reduction Act and his close friendship with President Biden have contributed to his unpopularity in the state.
“It’s simple math, West Virginia is an overwhelmingly conservative, Republican state,” McLaughlin went on to say. “Donald Trump won by nearly 40 points, Sen. Caputo won by 53 points and Jim Justice won the governor’s race by 33 points. It’s one of the most Republican states in the country.”
A recent poll taken by Eastern Carolina University found that Justice had a “commanding” 22-point lead over Joe Manchin, whereas Mooney held only a one-point lead.
“The road to the Senate majority runs right through West Virginia,” NRSC spokesman Tate Mitchell told the DCNF. “We are going to retire Joe Manchin and elect a Republican who fights for West Virginia families.”
Ohio, Montana and Arizona are still classified as toss-ups, according to the predictions made by the Center for Politics. The authors of the report noted that more electable candidates who could pose a real threat to Democratic incumbents are being recruited by the GOP.
They also noted that the NRSC has new leadership, as Montana’s Republican Sen. Steve Daines is charting a new path forward for 2024. Daines has emphasized recruiting better candidates and developing a more coherent strategy, according to the Center for Politics.
“Hypothetically, Republicans could win the Senate without West Virginia,” Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, told the DCNF. “But it is clearly their best target, and if they are losing it, that probably means things have more broadly gone haywire for them.”
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