Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) may be a conservative on some issues, but he also leans liberal in some regards and has shown an affinity for Democrats when compared with his fellow Republicans who are aligned with his political arch-nemesis, former President Donald Trump.
That most likely explains why Romney just voiced his total support for the re-election of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) when asked about the Senate campaign just launched by Trump-aligned Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, Breitbart reported.
Following the news on Thursday that Gov. Justice had filed paperwork to run for the U.S. Senate in 2024, CNN congressional correspondent Manu Raju asked Sen. Romney if he would support the governor's bid for West Virginia's Senate seat if Justice were to win the Republican nomination.
However, Romney told the CNN reporter, "I won’t in any way campaign against my friend Joe Manchin. He's a great friend, a good leader."
That response was quite a bit different from the replies that Raju received from Sens. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC), as Capito bluntly stated, "This is about control of the U.S. Senate, and that’s my focus here," while Graham said, "I like Joe but I think I’d rather have a Republican who’s going to be a more reliable vote. Joe Manchin is a wonderful fellow, I think Jim Justice is a winner."
Axios reported that Gov. Justice made his bid to be a U.S. senator official on Thursday and, assuming that he will prevail in a contested Republican primary battle, stands a solid chance of defeating Sen. Manchin in 2024 and securing both of West Virginia's Senate seats in the GOP column.
Justice, who was elected as a Democrat in 2017 but then switched to become a Republican alongside then-President Trump, has since governed as a conservative on most issues -- including abortion, gun rights, and taxes -- was easily re-elected by the state's voters, and currently has an approval rating of 64 percent compared to just 40 percent for Manchin among West Virginians.
According to Politico in February, polling conducted by a Republican-aligned super PAC -- the Senate Leadership Fund -- showed that Gov. Justice was the only possible GOP candidate in West Virginia who had a clear and unquestionable chance of defeating Manchin.
He would first have to prevail in a Republican primary against House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Alex Mooney (R-WV), who has already declared his Senate candidacy, and possibly also Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who unsuccessfully challenged Manchin in 2018 and is reportedly considering another effort at unseating him.
The SLF's polling showed that Justice would win a three-way primary battle with 53 percent support compared to 21 percent for Morrisey and 16 percent for Mooney.
Matched up against Manchin, the pollsters found that Justice would prevail 52-42 percent, while Manchin would defeat both Morrisey (52-42 percent) and Mooney (55-40 percent).
CNBC reported that Senate Democrats are facing a particularly tough scenario in the 2024 election cycle as they are defending 23 of the 34 seats that are up for a vote, including several located in "red" states that previously voted for former President Trump and are predominately controlled by Republicans.
The most vulnerable of those is Sen. Manchin's seat in West Virginia, which voted for Trump by nearly 40 points over President Joe Biden in 2020, and may also explain why the relatively moderate Manchin, who has frustrated many of his fellow Democrats by opposing Biden on several major issues, has been reluctant thus far to announce any of his future plans.
It is worth noting that Manchin only won re-election over Morrisey by about three points in 2018, that Gov. Justice appears to be heavily favored in terms of funding and polling support, and that election analysts have predicted that the state "leans R" in the coming cycle.