It’s Joe Manchin, a.k.a. the extremely popular governor of West Virginia, a.k.a. the man who was supposed to waltz to victory as Byrd’s replacement but now trails, a.k.a. the candidate who could implode at any moment if that federal probe of his office turns up a smoking gun. At last check, Obama’s approval rating in West Virginia was … 30/64, a ball and chain around Manchin’s ankles that he’s frantic to somehow wriggle loose from over the next five weeks.

And so, my friends, it’s come to this.

Manchin endorsed President Obama’s efforts on landmark health care reform and voiced support for the bill before and after its passage in March. Now, just five weeks away from a tougher Senate race than he expected against Republican John Raese, the governor said in an interview with RealClearPolitics that he supports many basic components of the law but volunteered that some of it needs to be repealed.

“I believe in health care reform. I don’t believe in the way this bill was passed,” Manchin said Sunday afternoon. “Why they overreached, I don’t know.”

Pressed on his support for repeal, Manchin clarified that he favored “repealing the things that are bad in that bill.” He ticked off a list of reforms in the law that he supports and asserted there is broad agreement in both parties for many of them. “Can’t you keep that as a good base?” he said, adding, “It’s a great bill.” He emphasized that he’s not calling for wholesale repeal and just wants to roll back parts of it but said, “You do need to.”

He’d also like you to know that he sympathizes with the tea party, ahem. Two things here. One: A chief liberal line of attack against O-Care skeptics is that they want to order a la carte on health care, preserving the popular provisions (like the ban on denying coverage for preexisting conditions) and getting rid of the unpopular ones, i.e. the individual mandate. According to O-Care supporters, there’s no way to do that and make it economically feasible; you need to take the bitter of the mandate to enjoy the sweet of expanded coverage so that insurance companies have more revenue available to cover people they wouldn’t have covered before. I’d be mighty curious to hear Manchin’s response to that. Does he have some sort of actual “drop the bad, keep the good” health-care solution in mind or is he just saying whatever he needs to say here to distance himself from Obama while sounding reasonable? I know which way I’m betting! Two: Consider this the final pathetic destruction of the lefty talking points earlier this year that (a) O-Care simply had to be passed in order to motivate Democrats to turn out in November and (b) that early public opposition would quickly soften and turn into support as people warmed up to the new reality. Bill Clinton’s already confessed his grievous error on the latter point and now here we have Manchin, arguably the most popular Democratic governor in America, eating a giant shinola sandwich on the former. Amazing.

First, Pomeroy’s Bush ad, now this. Exit question: How soon before we see the first Democratic ad of the cycle praising Reagan? Over/under is one week.