Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) went out on a limb as the only Democrat to vote in favor of confirming Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court after a bitter partisan battle focused heavily on the question of whether the judge had committed sexual assault in high school.
Although his vote was welcomed by Republicans and important in securing Kavanaugh’s confirmation, Manchin should not expect that he has bought himself any political free passes by siding with the GOP.
“Joe Manchin’s still a Democrat and we’re trying to hold the majority,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “We appreciate his vote for Judge Kavanaugh. I think it was the right thing to do. But we’re trying to win seats.”
Why did Manchin vote for Kavanaugh?
While it sometimes gets lost in the clear cut partisanship of Washington politics, senators, some more than others, have to balance what their party wants versus what their constituents want.
Manchin is a Democratic senator in a state that heavily voted for President Donald Trump in 2016, and that put pressure on him to support Kavanaugh to increase his chances of surviving the midterm elections. Here’s how one West Virginia resident put it to the New York Times:
“Joe Manchin knows that the people of this state, we are God-fearing, pro-gun, pro-life,” said Kevin Dalton, an emergency dispatcher from the former coal town of Madison. “His constituents out here told him basically, ‘You vote this guy in or we’re going to vote you out.’ He figured he better stay in with his people.”
What does it mean for him politically?
Not even all Republicans believed Manchin’s move was made out of courage or principle. Donald Trump Jr. attacked Manchin on Twitter after the vote:
A real profile in courage from Lyin’ liberal @JoeManchinWV. Waited until Kavanugh had enough votes secured before he announced his support. I bet he had another press release ready to go if Collins went the other way.
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) October 5, 2018
And some Democrats who believed Manchin would take a stand for sexual assault survivors were incredibly disappointed in the senator.
Democratic state legislature candidate Danielle Walker said she cried on Manchin’s shoulder as she shared the story of her sexual assault to him, and was shocked that he ended up voting to confirm Kavanaugh, telling the Associated Press “I feel raped all over again.”
Still, most polls show Manchin leading Republican challenger Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, and many Democrats in the state believe they must put the disagreement about Kavanaugh aside when they go vote.
“The progressive side will tell you, we’ve got to vote for him,” the Rev. Jim Lewis told The New York Times.