Democrat Joe Manchin wins re-election in West Virginia, CNN projects

Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, listens during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in Washington in September. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(CNN)Sen. Joe Manchin will win re-election in West Virginia, CNN projects, defeating Republican challenger Patrick Morrisey and keeping in Democratic hands a seat in a state that voted overwhelmingly for President Donald Trump.

West Virginia was long seen as a top Republican target for one reason: Trump won there by 42 percentage points in 2016.
The state, once a Democratic stronghold, has become so heavily Republican that the sitting governor, Jim Justice, switched to the GOP last year.
    Manchin, though, built a reputation as one of the Senate's most conservative Democrats. He broke with the rest of the party to vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, though he waited to announce his position until Kavanaugh's confirmation was already guaranteed.
    Morrisey defeated former Rep. Evan Jenkins and coal baron Don Blankenship in a May primary that drew national eyes largely because of Blankenship's attacks on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
    Trump made several trips to West Virginia to campaign with Morrisey, touting his administration's efforts to revitalize the state's coal industry. "I have done so much for West Virginia, against all odds, and having Patrick, a real fighter, by my side, would make things so much easier," Trump tweeted in August.
    Despite Trump's pleadings and the state's conservative leanings, though, West Virginia voters never soured on Manchin. Polls showed a majority continued to approve of him -- making the former governor a tough target for Morrisey.
      Manchin, meanwhile, hit Morrisey for his time as a pharmaceutical industry lobbyist in Washington.
      He also aired a TV ad in which he highlighted Morrisey signing onto a lawsuit seeking to end Obamacare, charging that Morrisey would undercut protections for pre-existing conditions. In the ad, Manchin shot the lawsuit with a gun.