W.Va. GOP governor backs Manchin for Senate: report

W.Va. GOP governor backs Manchin for Senate: report
© Greg Nash

West Virginia's newly-Republican Gov. Jim Justice said Wednesday that he is supporting Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: EPA aims to work more closely with industry Overnight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank's progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget 'out of whack' | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Lawmakers try again on miners’ pension bill MORE (D-W.Va.) against his own party's Senate nominee in 2018.

Justice, a former Democrat who switched party affiliations last month, is already bucking his new party according to a Metro News report. He pointed to Manchin's willingness to work with President Trump as well as the friendship between the two as key reasons for his decision.

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“Joe Manchin has been a friend of mine,” Justice told a crowd of West Virginia Republicans on Monday. “Now he may be a terrible person to y’all but Joe has been a friend of mine, and I’m going to tell you this as straight up as I can be: Joe Manchin is becoming a very key, integral part with Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpIvanka Trump pens op-ed on kindergartners learning tech Bharara, Yates tamp down expectations Mueller will bring criminal charges Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open MORE. And I’m going to take my read off of Donald Trump.”

“Joe Manchin is — and I know this — Joe Manchin is Donald Trump’s liaison with the Democrats," he said. "And you want, and I want, what Donald Trump is trying to get done.”

The remarks shocked Republicans in the state and came just hours after West Virginia's GOP chairman told Buzzfeed News that he was confident Justice would be supporting conservative candidates in 2018.

“He said positive things about the Republicans who were running,” Conrad Lucas said earlier Wednesday. “I’m confident that the governor will support the Republican nominee after our primary and as things get closer to the election to 2018.”

Justice publicly switched parties at a campaign-style rally with Trump last month. At the rally, he praised Trump, calling the GOP president a "good man" with "backbone."

"This man is a good man. He's got a backbone. He's got real ideas," Justice said of Trump in August. "He cares about America. He cares about us in West Virginia."

Manchin is one of a number of Senate Democrats up for reelection next year hailing from a state that Trump won in the 2016 presidential election. Trump took West Virginia by a whopping 42 points and many Republicans see Manchin's seat as a prime target for a GOP win.