Politics

West Virginia Senate Race Is All About SCOTUS Now

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Thomas Phippen Associate Editor
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Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is facing a tough reelection campaign in West Virginia this fall, and his support appears to depend on whether he will support President Donald Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court — which is why the Republican candidate is using as it as ammunition.

Patrick Morrisey, the state attorney general and Republican candidate for Senate in West Virginia, is working hard to pin down Manchin’s position on Supreme Court like abortion, religious liberty and the Second Amendment, in light of the pending confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. (RELATED: Manchin On SCOTUS: ‘I Don’t Have A Lean’ But Kavanaugh ‘Has All The Right Qualities’)

Manchin, one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democratic senators, said before Trump nominated Kavanaugh that he doesn’t want a justice who would overturn Roe v. Wade or dismantle the Affordable Care Act from the bench, which though unlikely, is nevertheless a possibility with the staunchly conservative Catholic Kavanaugh. But polls show that Kavanaugh’s confirmation is a key issue to West Virginia voters.

It’s unclear whether Kavanaugh’s appointment to SCOTUS would mean the immediate reversal of Roe v. Wade, as liberal activist groups suppose, but it would likely lead to a rightward shift for the court after the retirement Justice Anthony Kennedy, the famous swing-vote on the court.

The various issues that would come before the court, however, are a huge factor in the West Virginia election. A Trafalger Group poll released Wednesday found that West Virginia voters are nearly twice as likely to vote for Manchin if he supports Kavanaugh for SCOTUS. Manchin’s lead is less than two points if he votes with Democrats against Kavanaugh, but his jumps considerably if he crosses the aisle to support Trump’s nominee.

The poll shows 46.5 of support for Joe Manchin if he opposes Kavanaugh to Morrisey’s 44.6 percent, but if Manchin votes in favor of the nominee, his support jumps to 58.7 compared to Morrisey’s 30.1 percent.

“The men and women of West Virginia understand how critical the issues of life, religious liberty, and the Second Amendment are to our everyday lives and the essential role the U.S. Supreme Court has in shaping these issues,” Morrisey said in a statement Friday. The Daily Caller News Foundation reached out to Manchin’s campaign for comment.

While the two campaigns are in talks to schedule debates later in the fall, Morrisey believes there should be a debate specifically about SCOTUS issues, so that voters can “hear directly from those seeking their votes on where they stand on the most critical issues of our time.”

Morrisey contends that Manchin is using Kavanaugh “to demagogue and establish false litmus tests on issues like Obamacare and abortion.”

“By remaining unclear about his positions, Sen. Manchin has aligned himself with [Senate Minority Leader Chuck] Schumer and liberal special interests in opposition to President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee,” Morrisey said.

Depending on how centrist Republicans like Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine vote on Kavanaugh, the GOP might need a few independent-minded Democrats to break ranks in order to get enough votes to confirm the new justice.

Manchin has made it clear that Schumer does not dictate his vote. “I’ll be 71 years old in August, you’re going to whip me? Kiss my you know what” Manchin said when asked about whether Schumer would influence his vote.

Manchin voted for Trump’s first nominee to SCOTUS, Justice Neil Gorsuch, in 2017, as did fellow Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Joe Donnelly of Indiana.

Josh Hawley, the Republican running to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in Missouri — another red state that Trump won in 2016 — also wants a debate about Supreme Court issues.

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