CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The most powerful Democrat in the U.S. Senate buoyed up the re-election campaign of Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., in a speech at a fundraiser Friday, on the cusp of what could be a vicious election season.
Speaking at the state party’s Roosevelt Kennedy Dinner, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., lavished praise on Manchin, who sits in one of a number of seats in the caucus up for grabs in a state President Donald Trump carried by a landslide.
“Folks, I came here tonight because I want to tell you how important it is, not just to West Virginia, you may have seen that, but to America, that Joe Manchin gets re-elected, and re-elected by a large margin,” Schumer said. “I urge you, I plead with you, I beg you, to work as hard as you can for this man and send a signal to the rest of America that if Democrats are true to who they are and are willing to keep that truth, but at the same time, work with the other side, we can take America back, and the best days of our country are yet to come.”
Tracing back to some unexpected victories for the Democratic Party under the Trump administration, namely the imploded effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Schumer said Manchin likely served as the X-factor given the 51-49 split.
While less of a partisan fight, Schumer also said Manchin refused to let the caucus forget about miners who lost their health care as the result of bankruptcies within the industry, and was the impetus behind the passage of the Miners Protection Act.
“The miners have been protected because of one man in the United States Senate, who was indomitable, relentless, and every caucus, every week he’d talk about them,” Schumer said.
“The reason these miners have finally gotten their permanent health care is because of Joe Manchin and nobody else.”
Manchin himself spoke before Schumer in a speech ranging from who and what West Virginians are, to boisterous tales of hanging out with Gen. Chuck Yeager, to the Democratic values steeped into his DNA.
He said some criticize Democrats for being too quick to offer handouts, and while he believes in personal responsibility, in the end, it’s people that matter.
“If I’m going to err, I’m going to err on the side of the human being before I err on the side of a dollar,” Manchin said.
In what was ostensibly a political event, Manchin and Schumer both fired off barbs at the two most likely GOP nominees to run against him — Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va., and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. While not by name, Manchin referenced Jenkins for his time serving the state Legislature as a Democrat and Morrisey for moving to West Virginia to run for office.
“Is your purpose for you to change parties because you think it’s easier for you to get re-elected?” he said. ”Is your purpose to come from another state because you think you’ll have easier passage for something you want to do? What’s your purpose, this is what we should be asking.”
Jenkins did not attend the speech, but offered remarks of his own at a protest outside the event by the state Republican Party, at which attendees referred to the event as “Joe Manchin’s retirement party.”
Reach Jake Zuckerman at [email protected], 304-348-4814 or follow @jake_zuckerman on Twitter.