Trouble Brewing For Joe Manchin in WV Senate Race

(Crossposted on FDL Seminal)

Hello again MyDD community, it has been awhile since I've posted on here.

Up until now, Governor Joe Manchin (WV) has been riding the tide. He’s had 50%+ approval ratings for the majority of his gubernatorial stint (with an astounding 80% in January of 2006), is a recognizable name in West Virginia, and has made his name known on the national scene by being the leader that carried the Mountain State through the coal mining tragedies in the past years.

Manchin declared his candidacy for the United States Senate shortly after long-time serving West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd passed away. Most saw this as a clear victory for Manchin. His primary foes didn’t amount to much of a competition (despite a candidate solely running on Mountaintop Removal-Related Issues) and Governor Joe seemed slated to keep the Senate seat for the Democrats for the midterm elections.

However according to a Public Policy Polling (PPP) Poll released earlier this week, Manchin was down 3 points to the GOP contender John Raese. (Albeit, a Rasmussen Poll has Manchin up 7 points). This is leaving the West Virginia Republican Party salivating at the prospects of an upset.  . . .

"Our folks are jacked up," said Jim Dornan, Raese’s campaign manager.

Rasmussen Reports, based on its findings from a survey on Sunday, said the race went from the Toss Up to again in the Leans Democrat category in its Election 2010 Senate Balance of Power rankings. Manchin has a 50 percent to 43 percent lead over Raese, Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen polled 750 likely voters on Sunday. Two weeks ago Rasmussen called the race a toss-up with Manchin favored by 50 percent to Raese’s 45 percent.

(Source: Parkersburg News)

This isn’t Raese’s first attempt at Electoral glory in the Mountain State. Raese has attempted, a number of times, to unseat West Virginia notables like Sen. Jay Rockefeller, the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd, and even Former Republican Governor Arch Moore. All of these attempts have left Raese unsuccessful at gaining office. This looks to be Raese’s best chance yet at getting elected.

Raese has made his name known across the mountains and valleys of West Virginia by running an ad stating that he will not be "a rubber-stamp to Barack Obama." As cheesy and lame as it sounds, it will most likely have an effect on voters in West Virginia given that the state voted overwhelmingly for McCain in 2008.

All Obama, All The Time: Raese may be running against Manchin, but his campaign will be focused on Pres. Obama. Obama’s poll numbers in West Virginia are among his worst in the country. As one West Virginia Republican put it, "he’s despised here." Republican polling has found that Obama’s disapproval is climbing toward 70% and support for health care reform isn’t much better.

Raese will nationalize the race and Republicans believe he stands to benefit from the strategy in a big way. To do this, he’ll seek to tie Manchin to Obama with steel ties. Raese will particularly target health care reform and cap and trade legislation — two issues that West Virginians strongly oppose. This strategy is apparent in one of his latest ads.

"Joe Manchin’s been supporting Barack Obama’s liberal agenda for years," the narrator says. "Manchin supports Obama’s government run health care and its $400 billion in Medicare cuts…We can’t afford Joe Manchin in the Senate as a rubber stamp for Obama." Expect to see plenty more like that.

(Source: Hotline On Call)

Years?  It makes it sound like Obama has been in office longer than 20 months.  Oh well, that Raese sure is a strange one!

Manchin’s lead in the race has been slowly dwindling. West Virginia is a peculiar state. In the past 3 Presidential elections, West Virginia has voted (mostly by a decent margin) for the Republican candidate. However, only one GOP member is currently seated in Congress from the state (Shelley Moore Capito). It will be interesting to see how this Senate race plays out.

Manchin is highly regarded across the state, but as of late has taken some controversial positions on hot-button issues like the Bush Tax Cuts. The West Virginia AFL-CIO was disappointed and "taken aback" by Joe Manchin’s support for the extension of the Bush Tax Cuts.

On Wednesday, Manchin said he believes Bush-era tax breaks should be extended for all Americans, including the wealthiest. The governor said the federal government should seek ways to be more efficient before asking people of any income level to pay higher taxes in a recession.

Matheney (WV AFL-CIO Secretary Treasurer) on Thursday said those statements are disappointing.

"When there’s a tremendous outcry about deficit spending, to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest in the belief that it’s somehow going to stimulate our economy, it defies logic," Matheney said. "I think anyone supporting the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest is disappointing, and it was surprising."

(Source: Charleston Gazette)

This will most likely not sit well with Democrats in the state. West Virginia is by no means rich. In fact, it is one of the poorest states in the Union (I believe Mississippi is the only state to have a lower income level). Manchin’s argument has a foundation on the age-old belief that you shouldn’t raise taxes during a recession. What is ironic about this stance, which most GOP members of Congress support, is that we can’t afford to extend the Bush Tax Cuts. This would increase the deficit even more, something Republicans have been harping about for months now. It would make more sense to give tax breaks to the Middle-Class, especially in West Virginia’s case, so that people can start spending again.

Anyway, enough Bush Tax Cut rants.

The Raese-Manchin matchup slated for November will be a defining race in West Virginia’s history. Will the state choose to stick with tradition and keep a Democrat they’ve had good feelings about for the past 8 years or will voters be swept up in the GOP tide and vote in Businessman Raese.

Raese is the typical Republican. Need proof? Just visit his website and click on his bio tab. The first thing you see after you click on it is a picture of Raese decked out in a flashy suit clutching a rifle with the all too familiar tagline that reads "NRA Lifetime Member." Nothing like guns to court the West Virginia vote.

This shake-up could be a defining moment, not only for West Virginia, but the United States Senate as a whole.

Hold on to your hats, this one is going to get interesting.

What will it take to close the gun show loophole?

How many more tragedies need to happen before elected officials have the guts to close the gun show loophole? The latest high-profile beneficiary of this loophole was the mentally ill attacker in the recent shootings near the Pentagon.

Law enforcement officials say [John Patrick] Bedell, a man with a history of severe psychiatric problems, had been sent a letter by California authorities Jan. 10 telling him he was prohibited from buying a gun because of his mental history.

Nineteen days later, the officials say, Bedell bought the Ruger at a gun show in Las Vegas. Such a sale by a private individual does not require the kind of background check that would have stopped Bedell's purchase.

Republican politicians fall all over themselves trying to prove how loyal they are to the National Rifle Association. Some are against any kind of background checks for people who want to carry firearms in public. Too many Democrats are afraid to stand up to this NRA-approved extremism. Meanwhile, a Republican pollster's recent survey of gun owners shows that they understand the need for reasonable limits:

Mr. Luntz queried 832 gun owners, including 401 card-carrying N.R.A. members, in a survey commissioned by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the alliance of hundreds of executives seeking stronger gun laws. In flat rebuttal of N.R.A. propaganda, the findings showed that 69 percent of N.R.A. members supported closing the notorious gun-show loophole that invites laissez-faire arms dealing outside registration requirements.

Even more members, 82 percent, favored banning gun purchases to suspects on terrorist watch lists who are now free to arm. And 69 percent disagreed with Congressionally imposed rules against sharing federal gun-trace information with state and local police agencies.

I know it's not realistic to hope that a historically large Democratic majority in Congress would have the guts to take on the gun show loophole. (They can barely find enough votes to pass what's essentially a 1993 Republican health care reform proposal.) Too bad "pro-gun" Democrats would rather preserve their NRA scorecard ratings than enact limits that even rank and file NRA members find reasonable.

McConnell Got NRA to Whip Sotomayor Vote

This report from NPR's Nina Totenberg contains a fairly remarkable piece of news: So determined to block Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina ever nominated to the Supreme Court, McConnell took the unprecedented step of getting the NRA to do his dirty work.

One top aide to GOP leader McConnell confirmed that McConnell, at a meeting of conservative groups, asked the NRA about scoring the Sotomayor vote as a key vote hostile to gun rights. The aide conceded that in asking the question, McConnell was promoting an unusual step that the NRA then took.

You have to wonder how it is going to play in the Hispanic community around the country that the Republicans were so diametrically opposed to the nomination of Sotomayor, the Supreme Court nominee with the longest resume in nearly a century, that they called upon the NRA to twist Senators' arms -- even though they knew they didn't have the votes to stop her nomination.

Why the Republicans are so knee-jerkedly opposed to Sotomayor, who is apparently more moderate than other potential choices by the President and whose overall judicial perspective appears to be largely consistent with that of David Souter, whom she was nominated to replace (very much unlike Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, both of whom are more conservative than the Justices they replaced), doesn't make a whole lot of sense outside of being a raw political gamble -- and it's not one that I'm convinced is going to pay any dividends whatsoever.

There's more...

John Ensign's Psychic Powers

[This is a cross-post from my column at Examiner.com]


I take it back. Despite my initial impressions, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) has obviously thought long and hard about withholding congressional representation from the District's 600,000 residents. You see, Ensign concocted an amendment that would dismantle the city's gun control laws, and stapled it onto the DC vote bill (using a staple gun I can only assume). The bill, NRA kiss-up amendment included, passed the Senate. Now it and the gunless House version must somehow be reconciled.

Ensign had muttered to Politico that he "hadn't given it much thought," but now we see he was just jerking our chain, because yesterday we found he had written an op-ed for the Washington Post explaining his ironclad reasoning for keeping the District voiceless. The semi-citizens of DC don't want a House representative, Ensign tells us, we want more guns.

In the piece, Ensign really feels DC's pain, lamenting that we have been having our "right to self-defense" violated, that the restrictions on firearms imposed by the city government were "burdensome," and that they "frustrate and discourage DC residents." The raw, sincere empathy is quite moving.

John Ensign sees into our souls so clearly that I wonder if he isn't really TV fake-psychic John Edward. I can just see him now, at a community meeting in the District, wandering the stage and connecting with voters. . .

(Cue wavy lines indicating transition to imaginary scene.)

There's more...

250 Million

     I recently heard that there are an estimated 250 million guns in the United States. There are an estimated 111 million households in America. Using these numbers that would mean there are 2.2 guns for every household in America. That seems like a lot of guns to me. As I began to ponder these numbers I wondered with all of these guns are we a safer nation? Have all of these guns provided us with the security many of us are seeking?

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