CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Democrat Joe Manchin pushed back against the popularity of President Donald Trump in his own state to win his second full term in the U.S. Senate.
Manchin endured the toughest campaign in his three-plus decades in West Virginia politics, defeating Republican state attorney general Patrick Morrisey on Tuesday.
Morrisey was a staunch supporter of Trump, the GOP president who became popular in Appalachia for making broad promises to put coal miners back to work despite grim economic forecasts for the industry. Despite registered Democrats far outnumbering Republicans in West Virginia, the state gave Trump his largest margin of victory — 42 percentage points — in 2016. He visited the state three times in recent months to rally for Morrisey.
Manchin worked hard to cozy up to Trump, too, while nurturing a bipartisan brand.
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 …”
A popular former governor, Manchin won a special election in 2010 after the death of Sen. Robert C. Byrd and was elected again in 2012. Both were landslide victories.
Morrisey, the two-term attorney general, went on the offensive from the start of the fall campaign after defeating U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins and convicted former coal executive Don Blankenship in May. Immediately after his primary win, Morrisey said Manchin “has failed our state.”
Manchin hammered away at Morrisey for efforts to eliminate health insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions. While Morrisey was among those involved in a federal lawsuit in Texas, he said he had no intention of eliminating those protections.
Manchin had 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.
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.
Manchin far outraised Morrisey in campaign contributions during the campaign. Both candidates saturated the airwaves with political ads in recent months.
Morrisey was hoping to give West Virginia two Republican U.S. senators for the first time since 1958, when John D. Hoblitzell, Jr. was appointed to serve a year after the death of Democrat Matthew M. Neely, and two elected GOP senators for the first time since 1929. Shelley Moore Capito’s first term ends in 2020.