‘Big RINO’: GOP Rep Goes After His Own Governor As Senate Race Heats Up

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Michael Ginsberg Congressional Correspondent
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Republican West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney attacked Gov. Jim Justice as a Republican-in-name-only (RINO) on Thursday after polling showed that Justice would be a more formidable general election candidate against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin.

Mooney declared his candidacy against Manchin in November, as Justice continues “seriously considering” a bid. Manchin is widely considered the most vulnerable incumbent senator in the country and is the only Democratic member of West Virginia’s congressional delegation. Former President Donald Trump won the state in 2020 with 68.6% of the vote, his second-best showing in any state.

Big RINO Jim Justice can’t win a truly contested Republican primary. He’s a big supporter of Biden’s $1.2 trillion non-infrastructure bill and proposed the largest tax increase in the history of WV. West Virginia Republicans are conservative and don’t want Big RINO Jim,” Mooney tweeted, calling attention to Justice’s 2017 switch from Democrat to Republican.

The Senate Leadership Fund released a series of polls conducted from Feb. 5-7 showing that Justice would be the most competitive general election candidate against Manchin. A survey of 609 likely West Virginia voters found that Justice would defeat Manchin 52 percent to 42 percent, but that Manchin would defeat Mooney 55-40. The poll also showed that Manchin would defeat Attorney General Patrick Morrissey, who has not declared for the race, 52-42. Manchin defeated Morrissey 50-46 in 2018.

The conservative Club for Growth plans to oppose Justice, citing his support for federal infrastructure spending and tax increases, and will back either Mooney or Morrissey. (RELATED: Trump-Backed West Virginia Rep. Alex Mooney Wins Nasty Member-Versus-Member Primary)

Justice “would be in what we would call the moderate camp, so we wouldn’t support him in the primary,” Club president David McIntosh recently told reporters. “If there are two conservatives its a precarious situation where they’re going to cancel each other out and the moderate would win. So we’re going to wait and see if they’re both running, and then make a final call on that.”

Mooney defeated former Rep. David McKinley in a member-versus-member primary brought on by redistricting in 2022. Both candidates made the race personal, with Mooney deploying the RINO charge and McKinley calling his opponent a carpetbagger. Manchin endorsed McKinley in the race, and Justice called Trump’s endorsement of Mooney a “mistake.”