U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has long tried to thread the partisan needle as a Democrat in a mostly Republican state. This has earned him fleeting support from Republicans on certain issues, but his attempt to occupy the middle ground might not be enough to guarantee another term on Capitol Hill.
According to a new Emerson College poll, the incumbent is 13 points behind Republican Gov. Jim Justice in a hypothetical head-to-head race ahead of next year’s election.
Justice announced his candidacy for the office earlier this year following substantial speculation about his intentions.
📊 2024 WEST VIRGINIA POLL
(R) Justice 41% (+13)
(D) Manchin 28%
(D) Manchin 37% (+6)
(R) Mooney 31%
(R) Trump 59% (+36)
(D) Biden 23%
— InteractivePolls (@IAPolls2022) October 13, 2023
Although the governor enjoys a 41-28 lead over Manchin, the Democratic senator maintains a slight edge over GOP U.S. Rep. Alex Mooney, who is also vying for the seat.
Furthermore, 16% of respondents said they were unsure whether they would support Justice or Manchin, while another 15% were inclined to vote for someone else.
In any case, pollsters believe that independent voters will represent the deciding factor in the race — and they appear to be overwhelmingly in the governor’s camp if the choice comes down to Justice or Manchin.
While independents favor Justice by a 43-18 margin, Emerson College Polling Executive Director Spencer Kimball advised that they “are split 32% to 32%” between Manchin and Mooney in a hypothetical matchup.
Further hurting Manchin’s chances is the injection of campaign cash by the Republican Party with a goal of tying the incumbent to the policies of President Joe Biden, who has a dismal 19% approval rating in the state.
The GOP-aligned group One Nation sunk $1 million into such messaging earlier this year.
Its president and CEO, Steven Law, issued a statement declaring: “The so-called ‘Inflation Reduction Act’ will hurt Americans’ quality of life in a lot of ways, and One Nation will continue to advocate against bad policies.”
Justice, by comparison, has the approval of 40% of the state, which is 14 points higher than his disapproval rating with the remaining 34% of West Virginians remaining neutral.
After a strong performance by former President Donald Trump in the state that included winning each of its counties in 2020, he leads Biden by a staggering 59% to 23% in a hypothetical rematch.
Meanwhile, Manchin continues to leave West Virginians and his own party in suspense as he toys with the possibility of launching a third-party 2024 presidential bid.