West Virginia 2nd District Republican Congressman Alex Mooney is leapfrogging his campaign for re-election in November and going right after Senator Joe Manchin in 2024.
As Josh Kraushaar of Axios first reported, Mooney is running a television ad on cable in the 2nd District that specifically targets the Democratic Senator over the Manchin-Schumer climate, energy and prescription drug bill that narrowly passed the Senate on Sunday.
The ad begins with images of President Joe Biden and Manchin with a headline from Politico that reads, “Manchin Breathes New Life into Biden Agenda.” The announcer says Manchin is backing Biden’s “liberal agenda.”
“Manchin is supporting legislation that will raise our taxes, tax our coal industry and devastate West Virginia communities,” the announcer says.
The second half of the commercial promotes Mooney as, “someone who stands with us… and Alex Mooney won’t let Joe Manchin destroy our coal industry and devastate West Virginia.”
It is a hard-hitting campaign ad, one you might expect to see during the height of a head-to-head campaign.
But of course, Mooney is not running against Manchin, at least not yet. Currently, Mooney is running for re-election in the state’s new 2nd District, where he holds a significant advantage over Democratic opponent Barry Wendell.
And Manchin isn’t up for re-election until 2024, so what is this all about?
West Virginia Republican political consultant Greg Thomas, who is not working with Mooney, believes the ad is Mooney throwing down the gauntlet for the 2024 Republican Primary for Senate.
“This is not about Joe Manchin,” Thomas said. “This is aimed at other Republicans to say, ‘I’m the guy’.”
It is also likely that another factor in Mooney’s decision to run the ad dates back to Manchin’s endorsement of David McKinley over Mooney in the Primary. Manchin accused Mooney of lying about McKinley and said, “Alex Mooney has proven he’s all about Alex Mooney.”
Mooney easily outdistanced the more moderate McKinley in the Primary in the new 2nd District and has proven himself an effective
fundraiser. His hard-right conservatism and endorsement by Donald Trump have secured him a strong position with the Republican base.
However, he is also the subject of a Congressional ethics probe over allegations of diverting official resources and staff for personal and campaign activities and for using campaign funds for personal expenses, allegations he denies.
But will Joe Manchin even run for re-election in two years?
CNBC reported last April that Manchin told a group of wealthy Republican business executives meeting at the Florida estate of billionaire investor Nelson Peltz that he would seek another term. Some of the attendees reportedly were tossing around the idea of Manchin running for President as a Republican.
Also, if Biden does not run again, Manchin could provide a moderate counterbalance on the ticket if the party decides to nominate a liberal. Additionally, Democrat Andrew Yang and Republican Christine Todd Whitman are trying to start a third party that will be looking for recruits.
Notably, Manchin refused to say during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” show recently whether he would support Biden for President in 2024. “I’m not getting involved in any election right now,” Manchin said.
Mooney cannot say the same. He is laying down an early marker for 2024.