I missed it by a mile.
I thought—no, make that I was confident—that Senator Joe Manchin would vote to acquit President Trump on the two impeachment counts.
I connected dots.
Manchin said the standard for removal of a President should be “the highest bar in the world.” That’s an almost impossibly high standard.
The Senator broke from his party and was the only Democrat to vote for the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Just a couple days ago Manchin proposed a compromise censure resolution in the Senate. As the Washington Post reported, a censure “would be a less severe rebuke than removal from office.”
So, if Manchin supported censure, he must not think that the President’s actions rose to the level of removal from office, right?
Wrong, or at least I was wrong and, frankly, surprised when West Virginia’s only Democratic representative in Congress voted guilty on both counts.
“The evidence presented by the House Managers, including video testimony of witnesses under oath in the House of Representatives, clearly supports the charges brought against the President in the articles of impeachment,” Manchin said in a statement. (Read more here.)
The historic vote becomes a political Rorschach Test.
Those who wanted Trump removed view Manchin’s vote as a courageous act, considering the pro-Trump sentiment in his home state. One supporter likened it to Senator Robert Byrd’s March 2003 speech against the invasion of Iraq, which ran counter to public opinion in West Virginia.
However, Trump supporters—and there are legions in West Virginia—are livid. The callers and texters to Talkline Thursday accused Manchin of kowtowing to Democratic Party leaders and ignoring the will of his constituents.
Politically, that is a problem for Manchin.
He narrowly won re-election in 2018 by less than four percentage points over Republican Patrick Morrisey (49.6 percent to 46.2 percent). He received 290,510 votes.
Trump carried West Virginia in 2016 with 69 percent and 489,371 votes. There were only 398,000 registered Republicans in West Virginia in 2016, so Trump received wide support from independents and conservative Democrats.
Clearly, some of the most severe criticism of Manchin is coming, and will continue to come, from those who don’t vote for him anyway. However, his controversial stand on impeachment will also cost him with those Trump independents and Democrats.
But Manchin doesn’t face re-election until 2024 and he may not run again. If not, then he doesn’t have to worry about Election Day fallout.
Joe Manchin has been successful throughout his career in West Virginia, and even in hyper-partisan Washington, at following a more bi-partisan path. He even has a cordial relationship with the President… or at least he did.
But there was no middle path on impeachment. Guilty or not guilty. The country is so divided now that this week’s vote was not an end, but rather a white-hot moment on the increasingly tribal political continuum.
Going forward, it will be much more difficult, if not impossible, for Manchin to successfully carry that bi-partisan mantle in his home state.