Joe Manchin says when he arrived in Charleston forty years ago as a new member of the state legislature, David McKinley was the first person to introduce himself. They were from different political parties—Manchin a Democrat and McKinley a Republican—but it was the start of a life-long friendship.
Now, with McKinley battling for his political life in the race for the Republican nomination for the state’s 2nd congressional district, Manchin is defying the political norms and trying to help his old friend. Manchin has endorsed McKinley. He has even cut a commercial supporting McKinley and criticizing his opponent, Representative Alex Mooney.
“I know David. I trust David,” Manchin said on Talkline Monday. “He’s just all about West Virginia, everything he has done, all his life has been about how can we improve the state of West Virginia.”
What impact, if any, will the Manchin endorsement have on the race?
The Mooney campaign contends Manchin’s support is, “further proof David McKinley is a complete and total RINO (Republican in name only).” Mooney campaign manager Teemu Garrity told MetroNews, “It is not surprising that Joe Manchin and the Democratic Party want to defeat a principled conservative like Alex Mooney.”
But according to a recent poll by Morning Consult, Manchin’s popularly with Republicans has doubled in the last year, from just 35 percent to 69 percent. That surge can be attributed to Manchin’s opposition to the most progressive ideas of the Biden administration and the Democratic Party.
Republicans are inclined to glom on to Manchin when he opposes his own party the same way Democrats laud Republican Senators Mitt Romney or Lisa Murkowski when they buck their party. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
Additionally, nearly one in four West Virginia voters has no party affiliation, meaning they can choose a Democrat or Republican ballot in the Primary Election. McKinley must hope that many of those independents are Manchin voters.
However, as veteran political observer Chris Stirewalt told me, the unusual endorsement also signals McKinley needs help in the closing days of the campaign. “The ad will be effective, but it certainly represents a tacit admission that McKinley needs the shape of the race to change.”
The Mooney campaign released a poll this week showing their candidate up 20 points, 50 percent to 30 percent. The McKinley campaign said it had no new internal polling, but it referenced a poll by the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce in March that showed McKinley up five points. MetroNews is conducting a poll and the results will be out by the end of the week.
Mooney’s campaign strategy has been to frequently play his trump card, which happens to be Donald Trump. The former president’s endorsement weighs heavily in Mooney’s favor since every county in the new 2nd district (along with every county in the state) voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, both McKinley and Mooney have accepted my invitation for a joint appearance on Talkline. They will be together with me in the studio Thursday from 11:06-12n.