Suffice it to say that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin, the chairman of the National Governors Association, is making neither the White House nor Congressional Democrats happy. His confusing series of decisions about when or whether to hold elections for Robert Byrd's replacement and his refusal to immediately appoint someone to fill Byrd's seat while the state legislature, in a special session, interprets state law for him have kept observers on edge. What's Manchin up to?
Here's what you need to know.
1. His overall concern -- his number one concern -- is with West Virginia and its politics. He wants to go by the book in terms of the election to make sure that no flank is exposed and no one can accuse him of rigging the process for his own benefit.
2. That's because he wants to win the seat, and any taint on the process would hinder his ability to become senator.
3. He is aware that Democratic governors do not have the best of records when it comes to appointing seat-fillers and then figuring out and executing succession elections, so he wants to make sure that the person he picks will serve the state well, be loyal to him, and set him up for a fairly easy election, either in 2010 or 2012.
4. He doesn't really care for President Obama or the administration that much; I say this based on conversations with people who have spoken with the governor about the subject. So he does not believe that he has an obligation to do anything to further Obama's agenda if it in any way conflicts with his own.
5. He will cast himself in the mold of a Joe Lieberman, independent-type Democrat regardless of when he manages to reach the Senate (assuming he does).