Joe Manchin Won't Switch

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Nov. 8 2010 4:02 PM

Joe Manchin Won't Switch

A great scoop by Chris Stirewalt here, reporting on GOP overtures to Sen.-elect Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), but he's not going to switch parties..

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects - a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington.

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That's smart, firing a shot off at liberals who might not want Manchin in the seat, but his party is in the majority and he can get it anyway.

Manchin's switch could mean Republican support for not just $1 billion in seed money for the project but also a deal, much sought in coal country, to require the armed forces to use converted coal for fuel.

In multiple states, starting with Massachusetts in January, I've found voters angry -- I'll-switch-my-vote-on-this-one-issue angry -- at political deals in the Senate. There is universal awareness out there of the "Cornhusker kickback" that gave Nebraska new Medicare money in exchange for Ben Nelson's vote. Buying off Manchin this obviously would tank the credibility of Manchin and the incoming Senate GOP, so it's not happening.

Finally, I trust Stirewalt's instincts and sources, but Manchin must know that his path to re-election is smoother if he doesn't face a Republican primary in 2012. West Virginia elected a new Republican congressman last week, but it's one of the few states where Democrats gained ground in the state legislature. Democrats hold a 2-1 registration advantage in West Virginia; it would be very easy for John Raese to barrel into the May 2012 primary and beat Manchin, something he can't do with the general electorate. If Manchin could win handily in the 2010 wave, how is Obama going to drag him down in 2012?

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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