The following editorial appeared in the Charleston Gazette-Mail. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Times-News.

The rarely seen Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va; is crowing about his endorsement from former president Donald Trump for the 2022 election.

Mooney told MetroNews “Talkline” host Hoppy Kercheval that he’ll be using that endorsement at every opportunity running up to the 2022 primary against Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va.

The two congressmen are squaring off because West Virginia’s continuing decline in population has eliminated another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, leaving the Mountain State — which at one point had six seats — with only two House districts.

The race is an interesting one, pitting words against deeds. McKinley was one of 13 Republicans to help pass President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan, which will bring $6 billion to West Virginia to improve the state’s crumbling infrastructure while also creating jobs. Mooney and fellow Rep. Carol Miller, R-W.Va., voted against the plan, and McKinley said his fellow Republicans lobbied him hard not to vote for it, because it would be seen as a “win” for Biden. McKinley countered that it was a win for West Virginia.

So, McKinley will be spending his time talking about jobs and infrastructure, and Mooney will spend his time blasting McKinley for breaking with the party, and touting the blessing of a twice-impeached president.

Mooney is a prime example of a large chunk of the modern GOP, which holds fealty to Trump, furthers the disgraced president’s consistently disproven lies about election fraud and votes against anything that might involve a Democrat. It’s clear to see what Mooney’s against but harder to determine anything tangible he’s for. It’s certainly easier to screech “Socialism!” and “Radical leftist agenda!” than to take on the responsibility of solving real problems.

McKinley is more reminiscent of old-school Republican conservatism, where there are boundaries to spending, an adverse approach to big government and certain social concerns, but heads don’t burn like a vampire hit with holy water just for talking to someone who has a different take on an issue. Those in this camp often toe the party line, but they don’t pass up working across the aisle on important issues or bills that will bring a major boost to their constituents.

But does McKinley’s approach still work?

Trump’s word and cash on hand could be more than enough for Mooney to win. And he truly has little else, if anything, to show for his time in Congress. The Marylander who moved to West Virginia to seek office is hardly seen in his district, unless it’s at a fast-food drive-thru for a meal he’s charging to his campaign (something Mooney apparently did so frequently that it triggered an investigation from the bipartisan Office of Congressional Ethics, which voted unanimously to pass the case along to the House Ethics Committee).

Mooney’s strategy of putting Trump on the ballot also carries a certain risk. If he doesn’t win, and has other political ambitions, he can’t go back to Mar-a-Lago for help. The former president is more than willing to make these races about him, but quickly distances himself from those he sees as having failed.

Time will tell how all of this plays out, but Mooney knows having a “T” in his column is every bit as powerful, for now, as an “R” behind his name.

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