Manchin and Raese Spar in Only Debate

Manchin and Raese Spar in Only Debate

By Scott Conroy - October 19, 2010

Squaring off in the West Virginia Senate race's only scheduled debate on Monday, Governor Joe Manchin sought to assert his independence from the national Democratic agenda, while Republican businessman John Raese worked to link Manchin to the Obama administration at every opportunity.

The two leading candidates for the seat that was held by the late Democratic Senator Robert Byrd for more than 50 years shared the stage in Morgantown in a debate that aired statewide on public television.

Raese and Manchin were joined by Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson and Constitution Party candidate Jeff Becker.

Raese delivered one of the night's most memorable lines when the topic of health care reform was raised.

"I'd like to repeal every part of it because it is pure unadulterated socialism," Raese said. "It is the worst bill that has ever come out of the United States Senate and House."

Manchin has previously stated that he would like to repeal parts of the health care law, but he stressed in the debate that some aspects of the legislation were important to keep, such as the prohibition on insurers from denying coverage to people who have pre-existing conditions.

"There's a lot of good in the bill that Democrats and Republicans can agree on," Manchin said.

Manchin is one of the most popular governors in the nation, but his Democratic label has been particularly difficult for him to shake in a state where President Obama's approval rating is hovering around 35 percent.

Raese has centered his campaign around attacking Manchin as a potential "rubber stamp" for Obama's agenda, and he hammered home the charge during Monday's debate.

"We have to start lifting jobs and manufacturing where they should be, not like Manchin and Obama," Raese said.

Manchin, who recently launched a TV ad featuring video of him literally shooting the Democratic cap-and-trade bill, appeared ready to respond to Raese's charge.

"I have to inform my opponent that Mr. Obama's name will not be on the ballot for the U.S. Senate in West Virginia," Manchin said. "I want my presidents to succeed. I want my country to succeed, and I will help whoever I can."

The Democratic and Republican candidates also clashed over the kinds of federal pork projects that Senator Byrd was famous for bringing home to West Virginia.

"I don't think it's the best answer for the problems of West Virginia," Raese said, arguing that the private sector was better suited to grow the state's economy.

But Manchin countered by remarking that poor and rural states like West Virginia count on federal infrastructure projects to maintain their economic viability.

"The free enterprise system is not going to go there," Manchin said. "They're only going to go where the market is."

With two weeks to go before Election Day, Manchin holds a slim 2.5 percent lead in the latest RealClearPolitics polling average.

Scott Conroy is a national political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @RealClearScott.

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