Manchin Will Support Court Nominee

Whomever President Donald Trump nominates to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court, he can count on at least one Democrat vote: Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Manchin has no choice but to vote for the Trump nominee, if he wants to remain in the Senate. His vote last year in favor of confirming Justice Neil Gorsuch is ancient history as far as Trump voters are concerned.

Now, it is possible Manchin could vote against the Trump pick for the high court and still retain his seat. He has coal baron Don Blankenship to thank for that edge.

Blankenship continues his bid for the Senate as the Constitution Party nominee. Because he ran and lost as a Republican in the May primary election, it’s possible state law may keep him off the ballot in November.

If Blankenship is on the ballot, however, it will help Manchin greatly. Manchin can count on heavy support from Democrats, who retain a slight edge in voter registration.

His Republican opponent, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, would lose votes to Blankenship, however.

Manchin has tried to portray himself as a Trump Democrat, if there is such an animal. His vote to confirm Gorsuch helped in that regard.

But voting against Trump’s nominee to succeed the retiring Kennedy would kill that argument.

Many Trump supporters voted for the man primarily because they hoped his nominees to the Supreme Court would reverse what was perceived as a leftward tilt on that bench. Gorsuch was the first strike in that initiative.

Making it easier for Manchin will be the potential for Trump to nominate a firm pro-life judge for the high court. Manchin has proclaimed himself to be a staunch defender of the unborn.

Conversely, should Trump nominate a pro-life person and Manchin oppose him, the senator could wave good-bye to Washington. Such a vote would be viewed as a betrayal, and West Virginians don’t like to feel they’ve been suckered by a politician.

But what about Democrat leaders? Party discipline still is important on Capitol Hill. Would Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., come down hard on Manchin for voting in favor of a Trump nominee?

Of course not. He didn’t when Manchin voted for Gorsuch and he won’t when the vote is for another Trump nominee. Schumer and the party big-wigs are more concerned with the possibility of regaining control of the Senate than with a single senator’s vote on a single issue, even one as important as the Supreme Court.

When Manchin goes to them and explains that a “no” vote on the nominee would doom him in November, Schumer will give him a pass.

There’s another angle to consider – one that Manchin and his advisers no doubt have already thought about. It is pulling some Republican voters over to Manchin in November.

Manchin received quite a few Republican votes in his bids for governor. In fact, this time around, the possibility of him rejecting Trump’s high court picks is a driving force among some GOP voters who want Manchin gone.

Voting for a second Trump nominee could prompt those Republicans to reconsider whether it’s worth earning Manchin’s enmity by opposing him this time — especially with the Blankenship factor making it less likely Morrisey can prevail.

My bet is that Manchin will decide he has no choice but to back the president’s nominee for the high court. We’ll see.

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The Capital Gazette, in Annapolis, Md., had an edition on the streets Friday morning.

God bless the reporters, editors and others who made that happen, even as they grieved for the five coworkers killed Thursday, by a gunman with a grudge against the paper.

Some of the best people I know are newspaper men and women. My heart — and, I’m certain, those in newsrooms throughout the nation – goes out to our fellow journalists.

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net

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