My relationship with Joe Manchin dates back to the 1980s. I was working for a telecom in Fairmont at the time and he was in the WV Senate. He asked me to come to his office at Manchin Carpet headquarters in his hometown of Farmington.
He motioned me into his office, then took a constituent call about some sort of state benefit stuck in red take. Manchin scribbled some notes and told the constituent he would follow up. And I believe that he did.
We spoke for about 45 minutes about the groundbreaking that I was directing for a manufacturing site for my company. He agreed to be there to turn over a shovel of dirt and say a few words.
A few weeks later, I was summoned to his father John Manchin’s home for lunch. John was the political force in the family. His father came to this country in 1904 as a boy from Italy named Giuseppe Mancini.
That “Joe Manchin” went to work in the mines when he was 11 and then opened an auto repair shop and finally a grocery store. John showed me the original family home and told me his parent’s immigration story and how he and his family had become successful in the new country which they loved so much.
John Manchin’s brother was longtime West Virginia Secretary of State A. James Manchin. Governor Arch A. Moore, Jr. appointed him in 1973 to direct the Rehabilitation Environmental Action Program, REAP for short, a successful effort which rid the state of more than 100,000 junked cars. Using this success, he was able to leverage his name recognition into election to WV Secretary of State.
Joe also went on to also be elected Secretary of State in 2000, then Governor in 2004. When Robert Byrd passed away, Manchin ran for the unexpired term in 2010, then a full term in 2012.
Manchin’s double-digit lead earlier this year has shrunk to a 7-point lead over popular WV Attorney General Patrick Morrisey in polling from Public Policy Polling. A lead that seems to evaporate a little bit more every day.
President Trump does remain popular in West Virginia, where he won 69 percent of the vote in 2016, a larger margin than any other state. That influence will be brought fully to bear on Manchin in the fall.
I actually feel sorry for Joe. I know he wants what is best for West Virginia, but he also has to play nice with his Democrat teammates and captains like Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand, and the other stars of his party—Bernie Sanders, Chris Van Hollen, and Elizabeth Warren.
I’m reminded of when Ronald Reagan said: “I didn’t leave the Democratic party, the Democratic Party left me.” That could certainly apply to Joe Manchin. I believe he is still a Democrat out of family loyalty rather than out of any ideological connection with the socialist-leaning Democratic Party of 2018.
My conclusion is that if Joe wins and remains a Democrat, he will never reach his full potential impact as a representative of West Virginians. He could be a Republican Robert Byrd, minus the racist past.
If he loses, he will have fulfilled his prophetic words to Chuck Schumer last January when he said “If people like me can’t win from red states, you’ll be in the minority the rest of your life.”