Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, declined over the weekend to endorse Barack Obama for a second term for president or Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) as Senate majority leader in interviews with Politics Daily.
"That's such a hypothetical thing, but basically I think there's two more years that have to play out," Manchin said when I asked him if he expects to endorse Obama for a second term. "Things have got to change. People will have time to evaluate and make a decision over the next two years and four years. I just think there's a lot of correction, a lot of changes, a lot of things that need to be fixed before I would say anything about anybody running for office."
Although Manchin has a near-70 percent approval rating
in the state, a balanced state budget and endorsements from such right-of-center powerhouses as the National Rifle Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, he is locked in a tight race
with Republican John Raese in the contest to fill the unexpired term of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D).
Manchin, a pro-life, conservative Democrat, is paying for the sins of his party's more liberal leadership in Washington, especially Obama, who lost West Virginia by 13 points in 2008 and now has a 69 percent disapproval rating
in the Mountain State. The result is a locally popular governor-- one of the most popular in the country-- who is unwilling to embrace the Democratic leadership in Washington.
Although the governor said he was sure he would caucus with the Democrats in the Senate if he's elected in November, he would not commit to voting for Reid for leader, assuming Reid wins his race against Sharron Angle in Nevada.
"I'll support the person who supports West Virginia," Manchin told me when I asked if he would vote for Reid as Senate leader. When I asked if Harry Reid supports West Virginia, Manchin repeated, "I'm going to support the person who supports West Virginia and I'm not going to support the person who doesn't support West Virginia."
He continued, saying that a Senate leader's position on energy policy has to be one that benefits West Virgina. Reid, along with Obama, pushed this year for an energy reform bill that included a cap on carbon emissions, which would have increased costs for coal-fired power plants.
"This state has produced most of the energy for the East Coast," Manchin said. "We have produced the coal that's made the steel that's built the country and defended this country. We've done it all. We're willing to continue to do the heavy lifting, but if you don't understand that, don't look for my vote or support. I don't care who it is."
For the latest election coverage, follow me on Twitter @1PatriciaMurphy.