While there have been rumblings on the left of a primary challenge to incumbent Senator Joe Manchin over his Trump-friendly confirmation votes, the biggest threat to the West Virginia Senator was going to come from the right, if Republicans could field a strong contender. Enter West Virginia’s 3rd District Congressman, Evan Jenkins, who officially announced his run with a three minute video attacking Manchin’s commitment to West Virginia. His third district has undergone a radical transformation in the last decade:
The third district was the last piece of West Virginia left for Congressional Republicans to wrestle away, after losing it handily in 2008 and barely in 2010 and 2012. Evan Jenkins managed to unseat then-incumbent Rep. Nick Rahill in the 2014 wave, winning it by 15,000 votes.
Last year, Jenkins won the district by 91,000.
The third is still nominally Democratic: it re-elected current Democratic Governor Jim Justice by about a 28,000 vote margin. Senator Manchin has a history of doing very well here, winning the 2008 Gubernatorial election by a 93,000 vote margin despite the district voting for John McCain in the Presidential level. In his special election and first re-election as Senator, Manchin won by 28,000 in 2010 and crushed Reese in the 2012 rematch 2-1 here.
Recruiting the man who increased his win margin six-fold in a district the incumbent Senator performs strongly in (WV-03 accounted for more than half of Manchin’s 2010 winning margin) is perhaps the best move Republicans could have made in the state. It leaves a vacancy that the Party should have the upper hand in, given the dramatic reddening the district has undergone, and delivers a challenger who has been able to run up scores equal to Manchin’s. Republicans have been dealing with a dearth of announced quality candidates in what should be an excellent Senatorial season for them: North Dakota seems to be in neutral, Duffy passed in Wisconsin, Meehan passed in Pennsylvania, and Wagner still has yet to declare in Missouri. Jenkins’ entry might help break them out of the muck and recruit more members from the lower chamber- unless said chamber becomes endangered.