Let's Make a Deal: GOP Woos Joe Manchin

Manchin wants a coal plant; Republicans want a Senate majority

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During the campaign, West Virginia Governor (now Senator-elect) Joe Manchin led a crusade to get the Obama administration "off of our backs." He loudly voiced opposed the Environmental Protection Agency, made proposals to cut federal spending, and vowed to repeal "the bad parts" of Obamacare. He also, ironically, denied Republicans the opportunity to win a majority in the Senate.

Joe Manchin is still a West Virginia Democrat. But he may not be one for very much longer. Fox News's Chris Stirewalt reports that Republicans are pushing hard to lure him to the other side of the aisle, where his political views may be a good fit and—more importantly—where he can get support for his pet project: a coal-to-diesel fuel plant. Apparently stalled under Democratic leadership, the plant would be "big money for the state's coal producers" and could be just enough to tempt him to join the Grand Old Party. Manchin's team, for now, has said that if his own party isn't "receptive" to his platform, then it may leave "possibilities" open. Republicans currently need three Senators to cross over to reach a 50-50 deadlock.

  • What a Switch Could Mean, and Other Republican Targets  "Manchin's switch could mean Republican support for not just $1 billion in seed money for the project but also a deal, much sought in coal country, to require the armed forces to use converted coal for fuel," observes Fox News Chris Stirewalt, who first reported the story. "Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances."
  • Let's Suppose He and Another Senator Jumped to the GOP  Hot Air's Ed Morrissey offers this scenario for what would likely happen in the Senate: "Even getting to 50 won’t mean control of the agenda. Joe Biden will cast the deciding vote on leadership positions, which means Harry Reid will still control the Senate, although committee assignments will become more equitable, according to tradition. Manchin will have to spend two years in the minority and then hope his personal approval ratings remain high enough to prevail against another Democrat in 2012....I’ll go out on a limb and guess that Manchin will give them about 18 months to prove themselves one way or another, and then align himself with the party that promises him the brightest future when the 2012 election nears."
  • This Is Unlikely  writes The Hill's Ben Geman, who nonetheless deems it "fascinating-if-true." Geman speaks with several Republican strategists who "cast doubt" on the idea of Manchin crossing the aisle. "It would probably be unlikely since the Senate is not in a 50-50 split and he doesn’t have expanded leverage," said one unnamed strategist.
  • Wasn't He Already a Republican In the Campaign? Dan Amira at New York's Daily Intel points out that "He wouldn't endorse Harry Reid to remain Senate majority leader, nor would he back Obama for reelection. He claimed to be friendly with Sarah Palin. He...literally shot cap-and-trade legislation with a gun." So it makes sense that the GOP is "luring" Manchin over with promises of committee chairmanships and his pet coal project.
  • Remember: In a GOP Tidal Wave He Was Elected as a Democrat, and that is no tiny feat, notes James Joyner at Outside the Beltway. "While I certainly don’t blame the Republicans for trying, a party switch on Manchin’s part would be unseemly at best. His state’s voters just elected him as a Democrat, in what was a Republican wave election nationally. In my ideal world, all politicians contemplating a switch would hold themselves to the Phil Gramm standard and resign their seats and run for re-election as a member of the other party."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.