If Robert "Sheets" Byrd were still alive and kicking, and scheduled to face the voters of West Virginia in 2014, he would have a difficult time getting re-elected. Such is the state of utter despair that is the Mountaineer state Democrat party today.
Obama's just declared "war on coal" is part of his effort to build a legacy, and to appease the environmentalist wackos that are a major part of his constituency. However, it is going to have huge, and unintended consequences down ballot.
West Virginia had been, until the 90's, solidly Democrat. Then things began to change, and it has accelerated. Byrd died. Rockefeller quit..er, retired, rather than being tossed out on his ear next year. In 2012, Romney beat Obama by nearly a 2:1 margin, winning every single county in the state.
Joe Manchin won his second term as governor in 2008, with 70% of the vote. He was very popular in the state. When Byrd died, Manchin ran, and won in the special election of 2010. He won a full term in 2012 with 60% of the vote.
In 2010, rumors were floating that Manchin was being courted to change parties. In 2012, he refused to endorse Obama. The overall trend lines, shall we say, are highly unfavorable for Manchin. He would no doubt have a difficult time winning again in 2018.
In politics especially, timing IS indeed everything. Manchin has an opening, a window...and tremendous leverage. But for how long, before it closes..and will he climb through it....that's the question.
After...well, let's just be kind and call it a streak of bad luck from 2010-2012, it appears that the stars have magically aligned yet again to favor Senate Republicans. The third time's the charm after all, and they possibly couldn't snatch defeat once more from the jaws of victory. (Could they?)
At worst, the GOP gains several seats, falling just short of a majority. The Democrat conference will be smaller, and far more liberal. Manchin will be forced to oppose his party on most of the key issues.
If the GOP ends up with 50 seats, the pressure, AND the opportunity will be enormous, and Manchin will be able to write his own ticket....committee assignments, seniority..the whole nine yards.
If the GOP gets to 49 seats, his leverage is nonexistent.. Same as if they win 51. So, for Manchin, if he waits, the GOP has to hit 50 on the nose. Or, cross the aisle now, and get it all. Piled high..McConnell will meet every demand, every request.
Obama has handed Manchin the perfect scenario, and opportunity. The speech to the voters of WV writes itself. He would suffer no repercussions at home; indeed, he'd be a rock-star. And whatever petty acts Reid and Schumer inflict on him for the next 18 months, well, it will only make him more popular back home.
Manchin should go home when the Senate takes its August recess, host a series of well publicized town hall meetings around the state, as well as extensive interviews with local media..float some trial balloons, and then make the announcement when the Senate returns in September.
The inclination, the direction, was always there. Today, Obama has given him the perfect reason, and the perfect opportunity. There is no downside for Manchin.
However, Obama's speech today has inflicted a mortal wound on another WV politician, Nick Rahall. The long serving, and shall we say, "ethically challenged" congressman barely won in 2012, with just under 54% of the vote, against an unknown weak candidate. Rahall was obviously hurt by having Obama atop the ticket. He has long campaigned against the EPA, portraying himself as a "champion of coal," but it's likely that won't work any more. I think it's better than even money that he retires. There's no upside for him in running again. At the very best, he ekes out a win in a tough race, only to spend another two years in the minority in the House, fighting with his own caucus most of the time. Far better to hang it up, go out on top, a winner. His opponent will be well financed. There aren't that many House races to contest, and the GOP will smell Rahall's blood in the political waters.
Manchin was just interviewed on FOX News' Special Report, and his comments were far more blistering than from any Republican. He called Obama an "idiot" for proposing this..said it was akin to "shooting yourself in both feet, and then trying to run a marathon."
I'll try to find and post a clip, unless someone else can do so first, but it was riveting, must see TV. Manchin was besides himself, albeit in a controlled way. Joe's gonna jump...I expect McConnell's already called him several times.