Manchin re-elected, urges Trump to stop ‘toxic’ talk
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin survived his toughest election campaign in a state that has declared itself loyal to Donald Trump, then implored the president to take the lead in halting the “toxic” political talk that has divided the nation.
The Democrat won his second full term in the U.S. Senate, defeating Republican West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.
Manchin took full aim at Trump in his victory speech. While Manchin has worked hard to cozy up to the GOP president, he didn’t Tuesday night, urging a stop to “this absolute toxic rhetoric that’s going on in this country.
“We’ve got to bring people together,” Manchin said. “Mr. President, I want you to be the president of the United States, not the divided states.”
Morrisey had hoped to ride the attention in recent months from Trump, who had become popular in West Virginia for making broad promises to put coal miners back to work despite grim economic forecasts for the industry. The state gave Trump his largest margin of victory — 42 percentage points — in 2016 despite registered Democrats far outnumbering Republicans.
Roughly six in 10 West Virginia voters approve of the job Trump is doing, and about 4 in 10 said they strongly approve.
Trump visited the state three times and Vice President Mike Pence twice in recent months to rally for Morrisey. But it wasn’t enough.
“What West Virginia said loud and clear tonight: Mr. President, we want our senator, not your senator,” said Manchin, who far outraised Morrisey in campaign contributions.
In his concession speech, Morrisey said “tonight we may have fallen a little bit short.” He told supporters that “your blood, sweat and tears mean a lot to me.”
Morrisey said he’ll “keep fighting for West Virginia’s soul” in his final two years as attorney general.
Portraying himself as loyal to his home state rather than party ideology, Manchin was the only Senate Democrat to vote to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Morrisey said Manchin lacked leadership on the nomination, calling him “Sideline Joe” for waiting until the very end to announce his vote.
The 50-year-old Morrisey called himself a true conservative while his campaign accused Manchin of being “a dishonest Washington liberal who only acts bipartisan around election day ...”
Manchin made maintaining health care protections for pre-existing conditions a major focus of his campaign and has hit Morrisey for joining a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
Manchin also questioned Morrisey’s past ties in Washington, D.C., as a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry — West Virginia leads the nation in the rate of drug overdose deaths. He also criticized Morrisey’s roots in New Jersey, where he lost a 2000 congressional race.
Among voters, Democrat Everett Neville of Milton said he supported Manchin because “he’s worked hard for West Virginia so far, even when he was governor.
Former Democratic state lawmaker Larry Linch of Clarksburg said he was concerned about Manchin’s support of Kavanaugh but voted for Manchin anyway.
Manchin “causes me concern at times, but I’ve known him for 25 years,” Linch said. “I know he kind of plays the field, but I think that’s what we need, more of them jumping from one side to another and not being staunch along political lines.”
The 71-year-old Manchin earned the backing of teacher unions after he supported them during a statewide strike earlier this year. He chided Morrisey for calling the strike “unlawful” and for saying his office was prepared to support authorities with legal remedies.