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WV-Sen: Joe Manchin, Patrick Morrisey go face-to-face in their only debate before Election Day

West Virginia Senate candidates — incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (left) and Patrick Morrisey — squared off in their only debate just days before the midterm elections. ( Image source: Video screenshot)

Republican candidate Patrick Morrisey went toe-to-toe Thursday night with incumbent Sen. Joe Manchin (D) in their only debate in the West Virginia Senate race.

Much of Thursday's match  at West Virginia Radio Corporation offices in Morgantown was centered on President Donald Trump and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Morrisey, the West Virginia attorney general, touted his support for Trump's policies, while Manchin tried to distinguish himself as the candidate who works with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

What did they say during the debate?

West Virginia MetroNews' Talkline radio host Hoppy Kercheval moderated the one-hour debate. Kercheval's first question was about political rhetoric and civility following the recent mass killing at the Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“The tone needs to be tamped down from the leader of our free country and free world, President Trump, on down to each one of us as elected officials,” Manchin said, according to WestMetro News. “People think it’s OK to attack and say anything you want to, and I hope that changes. I hope that the president would tone down the rhetoric, tone down the tweets.”

Morrisey denounced anti-Semitism, adding that misplaced blame must also stop.

“When I start seeing the finger-pointing like I saw last weekend, to me, that’s crass. That has to come to an end. That’s not a Republican or Democratic position,” Morrisey said.

Morrisey said Trump has been a great president and that he would work with the president on the issues that help West Virginians.

The Republican said that Manchin “votes like a senator from New Jersey,” according to The Hill.

“That’s very different than a conservative fighter for President Trump," Morrisey said. "I’m going to work with this president to cut taxes, to reduce regulations on the hardworking job creators of our state.”

Manchin voted against Trump's tax code overhaul in December.

Support for Trump has remained high in West Virginia, where he won by 42 points in the 2016 presidential election. The president has a 62 percent approval rating among registered voters in the state, according to MorningConsult's September polling results.

Manchin, a moderate Democrat, has long been popular among West Virginians as a governor and as a senator. Forty-six percent of likely voters said they had a favorable view of Manchin, according to the latest poll by Emerson College. Only 35 percent said they view Morrisey favorably in the same poll.

“Our president — whether you voted for him or not — he’s the president of the United States. I want him to succeed and do well, and I want to help him do well," Manchin countered. "And I’ll stand up and support him when it’s good for West Virginia and when it’s not, I stand up to him."

Morrisey said Manchin went to Washington and became a dishonest liberal who flip-flops on the issues.

"He thinks like Hillary did that you could just make up things as you go along," Morrisey said. "He's either for Obamacare and then against Obamacare. He's for Planned Parenthood, he's against Planned Parenthood. He's for the Second Amendment, he's against the Second Amendment."

Manchin has voted against Trump on every health care vote since January 2017. The senator describes himself as pro-life and he has mostly voted that way in his career, but he voted against a 2017 bill that would have allowed states to deny funding to organizations that provide abortions.

During Thursday's debate, the senator said he is planning to vote against West Virginia's Amendment One. If approved, it would add language to the state constitution that abortion isn't a constitutional right.

On Second Amendment issues, Manchin's National Rifle Association rating slid after he teamed up with Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R) to expand federal background checks, The Hill reported.

“He said he was open to Donald Trump, but when the key judgment came in 2016, he said no to Donald Trump,” Morrisey continued. “I'm a conservative fighter for President Trump. He made his bed with Hillary Clinton and that's bad for West Virginia.”

Manchin endorsed Clinton during the 2016 election but has since admitted publicly that his decision was a mistake.

“It was a mistake. It was a mistake politically,” Manchin told Politico in June of his support for Clinton. He went on to say that Clinton's $20 billion promise to his state was too much to pass up. “Is this about me? Or trying to help a part of my state that’s never recovered and is having a tough time.”

The senator fired off against Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) when he called Trump a "sexual predator who lost the popular vote" following Trump's win, Politico reported.

Manchin blasted Reid's reaction as "an absolute embarrassment to the Senate as an institution, our Democratic Party, and the nation."

"I want to be very clear, he does not speak for me. As difficult as it is for anyone to lose an election, the American people have spoken and Donald Trump is our president-elect. Sen. Reid’s words needlessly feed the very divisiveness that is tearing this country apart," Manchin said at the time, according to Politico. "We are Americans first, not Democrats or Republicans first. Unfortunately, there are some who forget that at times like these it is wrong to put party and politics above our country.”

Overall, Manchin votes in line with Trump 60 percent of the time, according to data tracked by FiveThirtyEight.

Manchin pointed out during the debate that he was the only Democrat to vote in favor of Trump's Supreme Court Justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who was confirmed last month, following an FBI investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct by college professor Christine Blasey Ford. The FBI found no corroboration regarding the woman’s accusation.

What else?

The latest Emerson College poll, taken Oct. 28-31, showed Manchin leading Morrisey by 5 points with 8 percent of voters still undecided.

Trump will host a rally for Morrisey Friday afternoon in Huntington, West Virginia.

One last thing…
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