CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The campaigns of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey are hoping they can connect to voters through firearms, although not in the same way.
The Manchin campaign recently released advertisements featuring the senator with guns, including one in which the Democratic incumbent uses a shotgun to destroy a copy of a lawsuit over the constitutionality of the federal health care law.
Morrisey, on the other hand, is now touting an endorsement from the top gun organization in the country: the National Rifle Association.
The moves of both campaigns come within two months of Election Day; Manchin has led Morrisey in multiple surveys, including the MetroNews/Dominion Post West Virginia Poll released in late August.
The latest Manchin advertisements feature Manchin with firearms in hand. The first video, released Friday, focuses on Manchin’s platform.
“I was born and raised in Farmington, West Virginia, and this is what I’m fighting for,” Manchin says. “A strong military, securing our borders and keeping our promises to our veterans and our miners. Skills and technical training to create good-paying jobs. Decent and affordable health care.”
“And the Second Amendment always,” he adds, lifting up a rifle.
Manchin also pushes his desire to work with both parties and “any president” on legislation.
The campaign released a second video Monday — titled “Dead Wrong” — with Manchin using a shotgun to destroy a lawsuit on “Obamacare.” West Virginia and 19 other states are involved in the suit in federal court, arguing the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional due to the repeal of the individual mandate in December.
Manchin previously said the lawsuit, if successful, would put the insurance coverage of around 800,000 West Virginians with pre-existing conditions at risk. He introduced a resolution in July asking the Senate Legal Counsel to get involved in the lawsuit, as the Department of Justice denied such action.
The advertisement is a sequel of sorts to a 2010 commercial in which Manchin used a rifle to shoot a cap-and-trade emissions bill supported by Democrats.
“Now the threat is Patrick Morrisey’s lawsuit to take away health care from people with pre-existing conditions,” Manchin argues in the newest video. “He is just dead wrong, and that ain’t going to happen.”
Grant Herring, the communications director for the Manchin campaign, said both the 2010 and 2018 ads share a common theme: Manchin’s desire to represent West Virginians in the best way possible.
“I think the ad in 2010 was about him standing up to do the best for West Virginia. This is the same issue,” he said. “He’s still the same Joe doing what’s best for West Virginia, just a few years older.”
Morrisey campaign spokesman Nathan Brand criticized Manchin’s legislative record.
“West Virginia has been hurt by lying liberal Joe Manchin putting the interest of Washington liberals ahead of the health care and gun rights of West Virginians,” he said in a statement.
Manchin said last week on the Senate floor that lawmakers should consider a bipartisan legislative proposal introduced last October. The bill includes setting funding aside for cost-sharing subsidies and allowing states to have regulatory flexibility.
As for Manchin’s use of firearms, Brand said the senator is compensating for his poor marks from the NRA, notably a “D” rating following Manchin’s efforts to pass bipartisan gun legislation.
Manchin and Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., introduced legislation in 2013 to strengthen information reporting methods and increase where background checks have to be performed. The bill followed the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting.
The National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund announced Tuesday its endorsement of Morrisey, who has an “A-plus” rating from the political group.
“As attorney general of West Virginia, Patrick Morrisey has strongly supported the Second Amendment, and we can trust him to defend our constitutional rights in the U.S. Senate,” said Chris Cox, chairman of NRA-PVF.
“Unlike Joe Manchin, Morrisey will stand strong against the Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer anti-gun agenda.”
NRA-PVF announced last week a six-figure campaign against Manchin, using footage from President Donald Trump’s Aug. 21 rally in Charleston throughout one advertisement.
“I like Joe, but Joe doesn’t vote for us,” the president said during his stop in the state’s capital.
Brand said in an interview Tuesday the endorsement is another representation of Morrisey’s values; the West Virginia Coal Association, U.S. Chamber of Commerce and multiple anti-abortion groups also back the attorney general’s Senate run.
“Patrick’s got a stellar record when it comes to the Second Amendment,” he said. “He’s fought for constitutional carry in the state. He’s fought for gun reciprocity. He’s actually taken on Obama in court when it comes to gun issues as well. Manchin was working with Obama on anti-gun legislation.”
Herring said Manchin — a lifelong NRA member — supports gun rights.
“Law-abiding gun owners in the Mountain State know that we can support commonsense background checks at gun shows and for internet sales that keep guns out of the hands of terrorists and criminals while also protecting Second Amendment rights,” he said.