A Kennedy Democrat for Raese

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 18 2010 12:35 PM

A Kennedy Democrat for Raese

CLARKSBURG, W.V. -- Fred didn't want to give me his last name. "I don't want to get anyone angry," he said, as he sifted through $0.99 T-shirts at a K-Mart here. "Last time [in 2008] I had neighbors who told me they'd stop talking to me if I didn't support Obama." And he still didn't support Obama. "I'm very much against why he's done. The stimulus, the health care bill, the" --  he searched for the word -- "cap on trade, trade and cap? Cap and trade."

Fred, a retired schoolteacher, was a Democrat for most of his life, but he voted against Obama in 2008. "I say I voted for Palin, but I guess I voted for McCain," he said. He knows Gov. Joe Manchin's family and backed him in the past. "He ran as a conservative, but he's changed."

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How had Manchin changed? Fred couldn't pinpoint it; it was just, he said, that Obama was wrecking the country and Manchin was basically going along with it. And this makes him exactly the sort of voter who's powering Republican John Raese's surge into contention in the U.S. Senate race. The case against the stimulus, said Fred, was that "there really weren't any shovel-ready jobs and Obama had admitted this." The case against cap-and-trade was simpler. "I think Obama's trying to dismantle the country," he said.

Fred said that he still considered himself a Democrat; he registered as a Republican just to vote in their primaries. He was a Democrat, he said, because he'd supported the Kennedys, especially Bobby Kennedy.  "Jack Kennedy was the last of the real, so-called Democrats," he said. I asked him what Obama was doing that was so far to the left of what the Great Society Democrats (Bobby, not Jack) had done. "It's just much more extreme," he explained. "I've always been against socialism and communism."

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.