Senator Manchin sees himself as the man in the middle looking for compromise to solve the problems that perplex the country. His view of Washington puts him between the increasingly conservative Republican Party whose strength in the state has been growing and his own Democratic Party which he sees as out of touch with everyday West Virginians. For liberals like myself, he's mostly a DINO -- a Democrat in Name Only. For example, I find his support for Trump cabinet/court appointees like racist Jeff Sessions especially offensive. And while he has battled for retired miner benefits and to keep some workable form of health care coverage for everyone, most of the time he strikes me as Republican Lite. His rightward movement has not gone unnoticed by Trump and the rightwing world that supports his presidency. I've noted a couple of times how Manchin is Breitbart's favorite Democrat. Perhaps that's how he plans to get reelected -- looking like a Republican on most issues firm in the knowledge that Democrats like myself would never consider voting for a candidate like Patrick Morissey.
Unfortunately for Manchin, I think this balancing act is going to become more difficult especially on issues like gun control and abortion where for some voters the issue is the only issue and there is no room for compromise or a middle ground. My post this past weekend illustrated his problems with the gun issue where an "A" rating from the NRA was simply not good enough.
The abortion issue may even be tougher. For example, Manchin talked about Planned Parenthood and the abortion issue at a town hall in Hinton, West Virginia on April 13 as reported by the Beckley Register-Herald. Note how he works both sides of the issue:
Speakers questioned Manchin's vote to block funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides reproductive health care services to low-income women but does not provide abortions. Manchin, who said he believes abortion should be legal only in cases of a woman being raped or the victim of incest, or to save her own life, said he had initially supported Planned Parenthood because stringent investigations had shown that no federal money was used to pay for abortions, a move that would violate the federal Hyde Amendment.
He most recently voted against funding for the organization based on video footage that reportedly showed officials in the organization selling fetal tissue. Manchin said he was later informed the footage was unreliable.
Reminding those in the crowd of his pro-life position regarding abortion, he pledged to support Planned Parenthood again in the future.
And here he is supporting Planned Parenthood a few days later:
Not unlike the gun control issue, Manchin's attempt to stake out a more nuanced position (against abortion but still supporting Planned Parenthood) has gotten him all kinds of criticism from anti-abortion activists who, like the 2nd Amendment absolutists, have no room for any candidate who doesn't view the world exactly as they do. (See here and here for examples. And that's not to say that some Democrats don't play the same polarized game. For instance, here's Anna March in Salon attacking Bernie Sanders on abortion and civil rights.)
Being a centrist would seem to be easiest road to take to getting reelected. In our increasingly polarized times, however, it may be the toughest.