Of course it sucks for Joe Manchin. Here's why

Sen. Joe Manchin has been on a mission the last few weeks to spread the word that "Washington sucks," as if people di...

Posted: Feb 1, 2018 6:56 PM
Updated: Feb 1, 2018 6:57 PM

Sen. Joe Manchin has been on a mission the last few weeks to spread the word that "Washington sucks," as if people didn't know.

At first, the West Virginia Democrat made the complaint because of the way the House and Senate are run -- with an iron fist by the party leaders in charge of the bodies (right now, it's Republicans, but you can bet that Democrats would control which bills get votes in just about exactly the same way). There's an emphasis on party loyalty, bills are produced outside of regular order.

The latest reason Manchin says Washington sucks is that Republicans, in the form of Vice President Mike Pence -- and President Donald Trump is sure to follow -- are targeting him, in particular for his opposition to their tax reform law.

"In WV a few months ago & I spoke to the WV Chamber of Commerce. @Sen_JoeManchin was there -- & I looked him in the eye and I told him, 'Joe, the people of the Mountain State are counting on you,' so let's 'get this tax cut done together.' But #JoeVotedNo." Pence tweeted Wednesday.

That drew a statement from Manchin driving home his point about Washington sucking.

"The vice president's comments are exactly why Washington Sucks," Manchin said. "I'm disappointed in his comments but will continue to work to make Washington work so West Virginia and our country work."

It might suck, but Manchin's predicament should come as no surprise to him or anyone else.

He's something of a unicorn in the nation's capital -- a Democrat who represents West Virginia, which has become one of the reddest states in the country. He opposed the tax bill, but was among the few from his side of the aisle to stand and applaud portions of the State of the Union address Tuesday, for instance.

How red has West Virginia become? Gallup released a survey of Trump's job approval by state in 2017. He got the highest approval rating in ... West Virginia, where they gave him a 61% approval rating. National polls have him well below 50%. (Republican lawmakers, by the way, are holding a retreat at the Greenbrier there Thursday and Trump spoke to attendees. He's visited the state twice before as President already.)

West Virginia has realigned its party preference around Joe Manchin, by the way. He was governor before he was senator, and back then -- not that long ago! -- the state had two Democratic senators. It was a swing state until about the George W. Bush administration. But as national Democrats have focused on climate change as an issue, they have become less friendly in the coal-dependent state. Trump has put himself forth as a champion of coal. It's harder and harder for someone like Manchin to represent the state's interest as a Democrat.

That was evident when he won his came to the Senate in a special election to fill the term of Sen. Robert Byrd after he passed away. Manchin ran an ad where he literally fired a bullet from a rifle into "cap and trade" legislation that Democrats, who were then in charge, pushed as a way to combat climate change. The ad also made very clear he had the backing of the National Rifle Association (which he's since lost). Manchin has been flouting party orthodoxy for his entire time in DC.

Margins matter in Washington and there has been a wave of opposition to the Republican President and Democrats are going to do everything they can to take control of Congress in November. And Republicans are going to do everything they can to keep it. As they should.

CNN's Key Races - House

Control of the Senate matters very much for Trump and his Republican fellows. That tax bill -- their signature (and really only) legislative achievement so far -- was passed with some creative interpretation of Senate budget rules that allowed them to bypass the filibuster and pass the law to fundamentally change the country's tax system with a bare majority of 51 senators. It was 52-48 until Democrats scored an upset with the election of Doug Jones in deep red Alabama. If they didn't control the Senate, that tax bill never would have come up for a vote, at least not in a way that permanently cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% and unduly effected blue states with higher state and local taxes.

That's a job that seems eminently achievable in the House, where, according to Gallup, the President's party traditionally loses an average of 36 seats in a midterm in which the President's approval rating is below 50%. Democrats need 24 to take the majority. Trump's approval rating, while it has improved since the passage of a marquis tax bill, is currently teetering in the high 30s and low 40s, depending on the poll.

It's a different story in the Senate, where the national sentiment seems to favor Democrats in 2018, but the electoral map favors Republicans, who are defending just 8 seats compared to Democrats' 26.

In CNN's Key Race ratings released this week, Republicans are defending only two seats rated as "tossup" and Democrats are defending three, including Manchin's.

CNN's Key Races - Senate

In order to take control of the Senate, Democrats essentially have to keep all of their own seats and take two from Republicans. If Manchin loses, they have to take a seat that currently leans Republican. It's the political equivalent of shooting the moon. The margins, no matter what, are going to be incredibly thin. This ain't going to be beanbag in 2018.

And it's not going to be easy for either party. West Virginia isn't the only state where the President is popular and Democrats are hoping to re-elect a senator. Trump's approval rating was at 57% in North Dakota and 52% in Montana, where Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp and Jon Tester, respectively, hope to hang on. Despite Trump's popularity there, CNN rates Heitkamp and Tester in the "Lean Democratic" column. Trump is at 50% in the Gallup poll in Tennessee, Democrats' only real (and this may be wishful thinking for them) pickup opportunity in a red state. The two seriously competitive Republican-held seats are in Nevada and Arizona.

The bottom line is that Manchin came to the Senate as a Democrat standing up to Democrats and he's trying to stay in the Senate as a Democrat in a very red state. That he's in this position shows his skill as a politician, but it's also not a surprise that it's uncomfortable. It probably does suck.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 32888

Reported Deaths: 1188
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds259141
DeSoto172418
Madison132635
Jones114049
Neshoba100473
Rankin98213
Harrison96911
Lauderdale92280
Forrest91643
Scott77915
Jackson68917
Copiah62015
Washington61710
Leake58919
Lee56220
Holmes56041
Oktibbeha55227
Wayne54515
Warren53218
Yazoo5236
Lowndes50913
Grenada5067
Leflore50053
Lamar4917
Lincoln48434
Pike45416
Monroe42534
Sunflower4208
Lafayette4094
Covington3755
Attala36523
Panola3646
Bolivar35618
Newton3479
Simpson3453
Adams31518
Tate31011
Pontotoc3046
Marion30012
Chickasaw28719
Claiborne28410
Winston2808
Noxubee2728
Jasper2676
Pearl River26532
Marshall2583
Clay24911
Smith22911
Union21810
Clarke21025
Coahoma2056
Walthall2056
Lawrence1872
Yalobusha1807
Kemper17914
Carroll16811
Humphreys1569
Tallahatchie1454
Calhoun1414
Montgomery1392
Tippah13811
Itawamba1378
Hancock13413
Webster12711
Jefferson Davis1134
Tunica1133
Jefferson1103
Prentiss1103
Greene1059
Amite1043
Wilkinson939
George913
Tishomingo891
Quitman811
Choctaw754
Alcorn742
Perry724
Stone692
Franklin452
Benton420
Sharkey370
Issaquena101
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 46424

Reported Deaths: 1032
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson5486155
Montgomery4246105
Mobile4219136
Tuscaloosa234644
Marshall177011
Madison15548
Lee143337
Shelby135724
Morgan11285
Walker98525
Baldwin9809
Elmore96215
Dallas9109
Franklin90216
Etowah79013
DeKalb7615
Chambers64327
Autauga63612
Butler63228
Tallapoosa60469
Russell5680
Unassigned52226
Limestone5181
Houston5106
Lauderdale5016
Lowndes47821
Cullman4705
Pike4525
Colbert4266
St. Clair4162
Escambia4118
Calhoun3875
Coffee3863
Covington3727
Bullock36810
Barbour3572
Talladega3237
Marengo31711
Hale31521
Dale3020
Jackson3022
Wilcox2948
Sumter28512
Clarke2836
Winston2663
Chilton2622
Blount2511
Monroe2412
Pickens2386
Marion23613
Conecuh2177
Randolph2169
Macon1999
Choctaw19712
Bibb1961
Greene1868
Perry1791
Henry1363
Crenshaw1253
Washington1187
Lawrence1090
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Clay692
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