West Virginia Democrat Senator Joe Machin is a unicorn in today’s political world.
He was re-elected to his second full term in the Senate in 2018, after first winning election to fill-out the remaining two years of Robert Byrd’s last Senate term in 2010.
Manchin had been West Virginia’s Governor since 2004 at the time he ran for Byrd’s Office.
The Governor’s election in West Virginia coincides with Presidential election years. Manchin won with 63% of the vote in 2004, the same year that George W. Bush won West Virginia with 56%.
In 2008, Machin won re-election with 70% of the vote, which was the same year that Barack Obama won only 43% of the vote in West Virginia.
In the 2010 Special Election, Machin was elected to the Senate with 54% of the vote in a mid-term election year that saw the Democrats swamped by the Red Wave, losing 6 Senate seats overall, and 63 House seats while losing 53-46% in a nationwide tally of all 435 House Districts.
In 2012 Manchin won re-election to the Senate with 61% of the vote, while Barack Obama
was able to narrowly carry the state with 51% fared worse than he did four years earlier, getting only 36% of the vote. [NOTE: An keen-eyed reader pointed out my error in the original version. Obama won 51% in Virginia, not West Virginia].
The other Senator from West Virginia, Republican Shelley Moore Capito first won election to the Senate in 2014 with 62% of the vote and was just reelected in November with 70% of the vote.
Donald Trump carried West Virginia twice — with 69% in both 2016 and 2020.
Beyond a long political history as a moderate, and being personally popular in West Virginia, how has Joe Manchin remained so safely in office given the fact that West Virginia is one of the top 3-4 most conservative/GOP states in the America?
The answer is simple — even though he is a Democrat, Joe Manchin has always prioritized the interests of the citizens of West Virginia above the priorities of the national Democrat Party and its most significant interest groups. That is why West Virginians have kept voting for him.
After Joe Biden was declared the presumptive winner of the election on November 3 and visions of Sugar Plum Fairies were dancing in the heads of the Marxist/socialists in the Democrat Party, Joe Machin made a very clear public statement that even if the Democrats were to take control of the Senate majority — as they now have — he was not a supporter of a variety of Democrat Party priorities. He was not in favor of ending the legislative filibuster or packing the Supreme Court. He voted against confirming Justice Barrett, but issued a public statement it was the process he objected to, not Justice Barrett as the nominee.
Afterall, he voted to confirm both Justice Gorsuch and Justice Kavanaugh while nearly all the other Democrats voted against.
He has repeatedly made it clear he is not a supporter of the Green New Deal or any other energy and environmental policies that economically harm the coal industry which is the backbone of the West Virginia economy.
Chuck Schumer is going to need Joe Machin as the 50th vote on any matter of important legislation that Nancy Pelosi crams through the House. WIthout Machin’s 50th vote, the 51st vote of Kamala Harris doesn’t matter. The VP only votes in the case of a tie.
When Joe Manchin voted against the confirmation of Justice Barrett, here is one part of his published statement:
But each time a Senate majority – regardless of party – changes the rules, we reduce the incentive to work together across party lines. Instead, the partisan governing of the last ten years and the rushed nomination of Judge Barrett only fans the flames of division at a time when Americans are deeply divided.
Everyone with a passing familiarity with the recent history of the Senate knows that Manchin was referring to Harry Reid in his statement, as it was Harry Reid who changed the Senate Rules to eliminate the filibuster on judicial nominations. Ending the filibuster on legislation — under current Senate rules it still takes 60 votes to defeat a filibuster and pass legislation — is something that Manchin said he would not support. Without Manchin’s vote to change the rules, Schumer is going to be limited to the trick of trying to attach important House-passed bills to “must pass” legislation in order to force the GOP to go along and get his 60 votes.
Joe Machin is 73, and he will be 77 when he next faces the decision of whether to run for a third full term. If Manchin really has an “inner socialist” crying to get out, it could be that he decides to not seek re-election which would liberate him from limits he feels from the West Virginia electorate to maintain his moderate voting profile.
The pressure on him is going to be enormous. But one thing is certain, he does not need the influence or financial support of the Democrat Party or its outside interest groups to help him win in West Virginia if he does choose to run again. They have no leverage over him in that regard.
There are parts of the Democrat agenda that he is fully onboard with — such as guaranteed health care, which is a big issue for his constituents. He voted for Obamacare — which the GOP has not repealed. I’m not certain he would be a vote for a Bernie Sanders form of single-payor socialized medicine — not as long as Obamacare address the issue to the satisfaction of West Virginians’ needs.
He is not going to cripple West Viriginia’s economy with the use of any kind of carbon emission caps, and he will not support any legislation to end fracking.
Joe Manchin has been consistently moderate throughout his political career. He is the Democrat version of Susan Collins, He might vote for Chuck Schumer to be Senate Leader, but the socialist/liberal Democrats won’t be able to count on his vote as might be the case with 49 others.