West Virginia Republican Rep. Evan Jenkins announced Monday he will challenge Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinTrump administration seeks to use global aid for nuclear projects Shelley Moore Capito wins Senate primary West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice wins GOP gubernatorial primary MORE (D-W.Va.) next year.
Manchin is seen as one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats in the country, and represents a state easily won by President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE in last year’s election.
The former governor is also one of the best-known politicians in his state, however, and he has worked carefully to cultivate an independent image.
That’s an image Jenkins will look to attack; on Monday, he argued that Manchin had “changed” since coming to Washington in 2010.
“Joe changed when he got to Washington. West Virginia values? Not anymore,” Jenkins says in an announcement vide on his campaign website.
Jenkins focuses on Manchin’s decision to author compromise legislation in 2013 that would have strengthened background checks on gun sales. That bill, which failed in the Senate, is proof that Manchin won’t stand up for the Second Amendment, Jenkins said.
“Joe Manchin broke that promise, violating our values and pushing gun control with Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaHarris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Five ways America would take a hard left under Joe Biden Valerie Jarrett: ‘Democracy depends upon having law enforcement’ MORE and the New York liberals,” Jenkins says, as footage plays of then-President Obama and others talking about Manchin’s work on the bill.
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Jenkins is a top recruit for the seat, so his entry will help boost Republican hopes that the party can knock off Manchin. Other Republicans are publicly weighing a bid, including fellow Reps. David McKinleyDavid Bennett McKinleyMLB, Congress play hardball in fight over minor leagues Koch campaign touts bipartisan group behind ag labor immigration bill ‘Minor league cities’ need new federal partnership MORE and Alex Mooney, along with state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey
West Virginia is one of the 10 states where Democrats are defending a Senate seat in a state won by President Trump in 2016.
Republicans are also defending just eight seats overall compared to 25 for Democrats.
Trump won a larger share of the vote in West Virginia than in any state except Wyoming, a fact Jenkins played up.
“With Donald Trump in the White House, we’ve got a real chance to turn things around,” Jenkins says as video of Trump meeting with miners plays on the screen.
“He needs our help and I need your help.”
This story was updated at 4:29 .m.