“Are you a dead man walking?” MSNBC’s Kasie Hunt asks Sen. Joe Manchin in an interview about his re-election prospects in West Virginia. Democrats have been on retreat across the country, and even in Manchin’s state, which used to be doggedly Democratic in local and state politics even while trending Republican in presidential elections. West Virginians know him too well, Manchin insists, and know that they can trust him.
But when it comes to getting high-powered help next year, Manchin demurs on one figure in particular. “It wouldn’t be wise for Hillary Clinton to come to West Virginia,” he tells Hunt. “It wouldn’t be a good thing for her or for me.”
“You can separate friendship and politics,” Manchin tells Hunt — and he’d better hope he’s right. Voters there still have not forgotten this March 2016 promise from the Democratic Party’s nominee to run them out of their jobs, and then to provide them with welfare later on when they can’t find work:
I’m the only candidate which has a policy about how to bring economic opportunity using clean renewable energy as the key into coal country. Because we’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business, right Tim?
And we’re going to make it clear that we don’t want to forget those people. Those people labored in those mines for generations, losing their health, often losing their lives to turn on our lights and power our factories.
In a later debate, Hillary tried rewriting this as a pledge to “revitalize coal country,” a moment captured by the GOP’s rapid-response team at the time:
The last thing Manchin needs is Hillary Clinton traipsing across coal country and reminding them of that promise. Republican primary candidate Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (no relation) will spend plenty of time doing that for himself. Morrisey has a solid track record in fighting EPA incursion in the state, and will be much better positioned as a friend of coal if he wins the primary. Manchin will have to run far away from the progressives in his party, and even the so-called moderates, among which Hillary and her supporters are now counted — which tells West Virginians just how far left the Democratic Party has drifted.
Manchin did a pretty good job of holding his party at arm’s length in his special election in 2010 and again in 2012. His long track record in WV politics no doubt helps build his credibility. However, Hunt’s question is not just a quip. While it’s far too early to get reliable polling on the general election in 2018, a poll from August shows Manchin only up 14 points over Morrisey, and only at 51%. That’s not a great position for an incumbent, especially not one as well known as Manchin in the state.