Republicans eye Manchin as top target in 2024
Senate Republicans say Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will be a top electoral target in 2024, even though he has voted with them more often than any other Senate Democrat and helped Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) block an effort to reform the chamber’s filibuster rule.
Smarting from the disappointing failure to retake the Senate majority in this year’s midterms, Republican strategists predict that McConnell will pour millions of dollars into West Virginia next cycle to flip Manchin’s seat.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, one of several Republicans who could challenge Manchin in 2024, said the centrist Democrat will pay a political price for supporting the Inflation Reduction Act, which included major components of President Biden’s agenda such as tax reform, prescription drug reform and hundreds of billions of dollars to fight climate change.
The bill passed the Senate in August by a straight-party line vote in the 50-50 Senate.
“Sen. Manchin deeply disappointed West Virginians and let them down tremendously when he supported the ‘Build Back Broke’ bill last summer. That legislation really hit our state very hard. You can dress up the pig anyway you want but most people in West Virginia understand that that bill is going to hurt us,” Morrisey told The Hill in an interview.
“He let the air out of his balloon and it’s not going to be so easy to pump it back up,” he said.
Morrisey, who is “evaluating options” about what to do in 2024, said “we’re looking very closely at the Senate race.”
He and his allies believe they will have at least $12 million to spend on a Senate Republican primary alone.
Morrisey narrowly lost his bid to unseat Manchin in 2018 by 3 percentage points or about 19,000 votes, which turned out to be closer than what the polls indicated before Election Day.
“I learned a lot from a past experience in a terrible political environment. The environment in 2024 is going to be much, much stronger” for Republicans, he predicted
Other Republicans who could challenge Manchin include Gov. Jim Justice (R) and Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.).
Manchin, who is 75 years old, won’t say whether he’ll run for a fourth Senate term but West Virginia political experts say he is showing every sign of gearing up for another run.
But he may decide to retire when he reflects on just how bruising a battle he will face in a state that former President Trump won with 68 percent of the vote in 2016 and 69 percent of the vote in 2020.
When asked about Republican plans to knock Manchin out of office, a spokeswoman for the senator said her boss doesn’t shy away from debate.
“A robust democratic process has never been more important to our country and Sen. Manchin encourages every candidate who values public service to enter the race,” said Sam Runyon, an aide to Manchin.
Manchin defended his vote for the Inflation Reduction Act by saying it would give energy companies “the certainty they need to increase domestic energy production” and would lower health care costs and reduce the deficit.
Republicans say they feel extra motivated to oust Manchin after he surprised them in July by announcing a deal with Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to raise corporate taxes and spend $370 billion on programs to fight climate change.
Senate Republicans were furious the deal on the Inflation Reduction Act was announced only a few hours after 17 of them voted to pass to pass a $280 billion bill to help the domestic semi-conductor manufacturing industry. The voted for the Chips and Science Act only after feeling assured that Manchin would not agree to any tax reform and climate deal.
“That guaranteed that he will be a target,” said a Senate GOP advisor. “I just know that there’s no way that he’ll get a pass after what he did with the reconciliation package,” referring to the Inflation Reduction Act, which required big, profitable businesses to pay more in taxes.
Another Senate Republican strategist predicted a deluge of money into West Virginia in 2024 to defeat Manchin if he runs for re-election.
“I expect a lot of money to pour into West Virginia to try to beat him. It’s by no means a gimme but given the makeup of the state, given Manchin’s record, I expect to see the [National Republican Senatorial Committee] spend big and I’d expect a lot of outside money to pour into the state,” said the strategist. “It would be malpractice not to at least try to take him out.”
The full-scale assault on Manchin in the next election cycle could complicate efforts to work with him on major bipartisan deals, such as proposals to extend the solvency of Social Security and Medicare, which Manchin said this month he wanted to pursue.
“If we don’t look at the trust funds that are going bankrupt, whether they be Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, highway, all the ones — these are tremendous problems right now,” Manchin said at a Fortune CEO conference when asked about where he sees areas of potential compromise in the next Congress.
Jonathan Kott, a former senior aide to Manchin, predicted that his former boss will keep on trying to hammer out deals with Republicans, even if he knows they’re trying to knock him off in the next election.
“Manchin works in bipartisan way because he thinks it’s good for West Virginia and the country. I don’t think he cares about politics at all,” he said. “I wouldn’t expect him to change at all… I think he’ll be the same bipartisan guy in 2023 and 2024.
“When we figure out what the Senate looks like, he’ll work in a bipartisan way to get the most done,” he added.
Manchin showed this week that he’s still willing to buck the Democratic leadership on big votes even though he may need tens of millions of dollars in spending from Democratic-allied groups to survive a tough re-election race in 2024.
The West Virginia senator revealed through his spokeswoman this week that he is “not comfortable holding a hearing” on confirming Richard Glick, a Biden nominee, to serve another term on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Manchin as significant power over that agency as chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Republicans felt much more positively about Manchin after he stopped President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda in 2021 by declaring in a December Fox News interview that he just couldn’t support the White House’s $1.75 trillion legislative framework.
Republicans at the time sang Manchin’s praises, with McConnell declaring it was a “great shot in the arm for the country” and “exactly what the country needed at this particular time.”
McConnell urged members of his conference in 2021 to say nice things about Manchin and fellow centrist Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), knowing he needed their support to keep Biden’s agenda in check and preserve the filibuster in the 50-50 Senate.
The GOP leader also praised Manchin’s “courage in defending the Senate as an institution.”
But Senate Republicans say they’ll be gunning for him next year and in 2024.
“It’s a good map in 2024 for Republicans,” Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.), the incoming chairman of the NRSC told The Hill.
He noted that “West Virginia is a state that voted for Trump by 38 points in 2020, by 40 points in 2016.”
“Every county in West Virginia has voted for a Republican president on the ballot for a number of cycles. So it’s a state that’s become increasingly more red [like] Montana and Ohio. And so of course we look at every race,” he said. “We’ll see who’s in the race.”
The 2024 cycle will be a tough one for Senate Democrat who need to defend 23 seats, including incumbents in states that Trump won in 2016 and 2020, such as Ohio, where Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faces re-election, and Montana, where Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is up.
Sinema is also up for re-election in a state that Biden barely won by about 10,000 votes.