Hoppy Kercheval, who so eloquently contributes on occasion to this newspaper, made some astute observations about U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin's waffling on whether he is going to support President Obama this year.
Manchin spent the April recess from Capitol Hill crowing that he would be keeping his political distance from the Commander in Chief this fall.
This didn't exactly catch observers of the capital scene by surprise since Manchin is viewed as a master of catching the popular wave and riding it to triumph at the polls.
But then, just weeks after Manchin's "Backin' Off Barack" tour of the Mountain State, a posting on the Democratic blog West Virginia Blue quoted Manchin telling a party group it was all a misunderstanding; his intentions were to "get the attention of the White House" but everything got blown way out of proportion. He's on board with the Dems for most all of their agenda and he will never support Romney and never switch parties.
Those paying close attention to Manchin under the dome in D.C. already knew his declaration of independence was suspect. On a key roll call right after returning from the congressional recess, Manchin caved on a roll call to muzzle Obama's National Labor Relations Board ruling to fast-track union elections in the workplace. The union ambush tactics would basically cripple an employer's latitude to consult with counsel on employment law and effectively communicate with their hires.
The Manchin vote was a perfect opportunity to show West Virginians that his deeds did, in fact, match his words. Not only would he stand up to Obama's EPA and anti-coal policies, he would push back against the White House strong-arming those who cut precious payroll checks for distribution to men and women grateful to have a job in this sluggish economy.
Has Joe Manchin placed himself in the political middle, about to be squeezed from both ends? Kercheval writes that Manchin would like to put to rest all the attention his on-again, off-again romance with Obama has received. But, concludes Kercheval, "unfortunately for Manchin, that bell has already been rung and the Senator may continue to be asked about it throughout the campaign."
Manchin can say all he wants traveling the state. The test of his core is answering those roll calls in the storied chamber of the U.S. Senate. His vote to stand with Obama on ambush elections most accurately tells us exactly where he stands.
Frank S. Hewes