Republicans Courting Manchin Party Switch

Republicans are making some big promises to try to lure West Virginia Senator-elect Joe Manchin to cross the aisle.

“Republicans are making some big promises to try to lure West Virginia Senator-elect Joe Manchin to cross the aisle,” Chris Stirewalt reports for Fox News.

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects – a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington. It’s one of Manchin’s pet projects and could mean big money for the state’s coal producers. “Republicans believe in an ‘all of the above’ approach to energy,” one top Senate aide told Power Play. “And coal-to-diesel could certainly be part of that.” Manchin’s switch could mean Republican support for not just $1 billion in seed money for the project but also a deal, much sought in coal country, to require the armed forces to use converted coal for fuel.

Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances. If Manchin, Nelson and Lieberman switched, it would leave the Senate in a 50-50 deadlock.

But Team Manchin, so far, is sticking with the campaign line that the two-term conservative governor is heading to Washington to change the way his party operates and to look for chances to work on bipartisan projects. “He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on,” said one Manchin advisor. “Now, if that doesn’t work and Democrats aren’t receptive, I don’t know what possibilities that leaves open.”

While I certainly don’t blame the Republicans for trying, a party switch on Manchin’s part would be unseemly at best.  His state’s voters just elected him as a Democrat, in what was a Republican wave election nationally.

In my ideal world, all politicians contemplating a switch would hold themselves to the Phil Gramm standard and resign their seats and run for re-election as a member of the other party.  But, failing that, some switches are more forgivable than others.   While I’ve never been a big Richard Shelby fan, his switch to the GOP in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 Republican landslide was defensible.  It not only put him in the majority — and thus able to do more good for his Alabama constituents — but he could legitimately argue that the GOP sweep of the non-rigged districts in that year’s House elections demonstrated that the state had completed a conversion to the Republican Party.

via Taegan Goddard

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. schooner says:

    Shorter James:


  2. James Young says:

    I agree with virtually everything you’ve said. Including the Gramm standard. Of course, the facts might be sufficient to justify it in this case, particularly since Manchin ran so far from the Democrat base. His justification might be as simple as “Hey, I realize you didn’t vote for Raese because he was pretty much a carpetbagger, and for me because I promised to oppose virtually everything President Barry stands for. Based upon those facts, I’m going to do the best I can for West Virginia, and the ‘the best I can for West Virginia’ means as a Republican in the incoming GOP tidal wave.” I doubt it’ll happen, but I think he could get away with it.

  3. Joshua C. says:

    “The GOP sweep of the non-rigged districts in that year’s House elections” — seriously? Did you even fact-check that statement, or did you not think anyone would bother to look up that every Alabaman U.S. House incumbent was re-elected, 4 Democrats and 3 Republicans?

  4. James Joyner says:

    @Schooner – Umm, I’m arguing AGAINST a Dem switching to the GOP.

    @Joshua C. – I didn’t bother to look it up; it was just my incorrect recollection. The Republicans did take the governorship in 1994, although only narrowly.

    Shelby’s switch took most of us by surprise and I thought it was pretty skeezy at the time. But it came four years into his second term and the state was definitely trending Republican.

  5. schooner says:

    Well James, he would be switching to a Republican so that would make it okay in your eyes as you stated with Shelby. Who cares if he ran as a Democrat last week? Right?

    Your Gramm point is much stronger as he did the honourable thing.

  6. wr says:

    Let’s see — the honest and honorable Teapublicans ran against the dirty dealings in Washington, promising to save the taxpayers’ money and operate on a pure, ethical level. They’re not even sworn in and they’re trying to throw God knows how many billions after some coal-diesel boondoggle to gain one more seat’s worth of power.

    So Teafolks — Zels and Plunk and the rest — is this what you voted for? Are you going to start screaming about corrupt Republicans? Or are you going to prove what the rest of us have known all along and go along as long as it benefits your side?