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West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice

HUNTINGTON, West Virginia, August 4, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — At a rally packed with cheering President Trump supporters, West Virginia’s Democratic Governor Jim Justice took the crowd by surprise when he announced he was switching political parties, joining the President as a member of the GOP.

Governor Justice told the capacity crowd, “Today, I will tell you, with lots of prayers and lots of thinking, I can’t help you anymore being a Democrat governor. So tomorrow I will be changing my registration to Republican.”

With the governor’s flip to the GOP, the “Wild and Wonderful” state has nearly completed its transformation from deep “blue” to bright “red” in just a few years.

Democrats had controlled the West Virginia Governor’s Mansion since 2001.

With Governor Justice’s defection, Republicans now have complete control of both governorships and legislatures in 26 states. Democrats retain control of just 15 governor’s mansions.

Senator Joe Manchin, the only remaining high-profile Democrat politician in the state, said in an official statement, “I have been and always will be a proud West Virginia Democrat. I am disappointed by Governor Justice's decision to switch parties. While I do not agree with his decision, I have always said that I will work with anyone, no matter their political affiliation, to do what is best for the people of West Virginia.”

Despite his stated “disappointment,” rumors are now swirling that Manchin may be next to make the leap to the Grand Old Party.

Steve Roberts, president of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce, told POLITICO that he is wondering what impact the governor’s party switch is likely to have on Manchin. Roberts explained, “There had been some speculation that Manchin was going to change parties from earlier on.”

President Trump’s enduring appeal in the Mountain State

While Trump’s popularity mystifies East Coast politicos and pundits, Roberts offered an explanation, saying, “Plain-spokenness is not considered offensive here, the fact that he just sort of calls it like he sees it.”

“There probably is a very real feeling that the nation hasn’t done much to help our state during at least the eight years of the Obama administration and now we have a president that says, ‘I like coal, I support the military, I love the Boy Scouts,’” said Roberts.

President Trump remains extremely popular in the Mountain State — a state he won with 68 percent percent of the vote. Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton in all 55 West Virginia counties, often capturing 70 percent or more of the vote.

In a statement to POLITICO, White House spokesperson Lindsay Walters said, “The president is proud to have the support of the men and women in places like West Virginia who had been left behind by the policies of the previous administration.”

Walters continued, saying President Trump is “working for them each and every day, unleashing American businesses and protecting their communities. Just look at the results he’s already gotten. 42,000 mining and logging jobs have been added since January, and a new coal mine has opened its doors. The much-needed resources of the federal government are refocused towards combating the epidemic of drug and opioid addiction. He’s getting better trade deals with our partners around the world. And this is only the beginning.”

Major TV networks ignore the story

ABC’s World News Tonight and NBC Nightly News chose to ignore the story of the gubernatorial party switch, and CBS devoted just 13 seconds to reporting on the defection.

What did the other major networks choose to report on instead?

The Media Research Center (MRC), which monitors the networks, pointed out that “instead of reporting on the rare party identification switch of a sitting U.S. governor, ABC World News Tonight thought it was more important to dedicate 17 seconds to a list of the most stolen car models in America. Meanwhile, on NBC Nightly News, Anchor Lester Holt spent 30 seconds reporting on a Boeing test flight that drew an outline of the plane in the sky.”