- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2018

President Trump traveled Thursday to West Virginia to deliver a harsh message to the state’s voters: Get rid of Sen. Joe Manchin.

At an event to highlight the windfall for middle-class families from the tax cuts, the president repeatedly hammered Mr. Manchin for his vote against the tax cuts and for joining his fellow Senate Democrats in a blockade of the Trump agenda.

“He voted against everything. He voted against tax cuts,” Mr. Trump told the crowd in a civic center in White Sulfur Springs. “He does other things I don’t like, I’ll be honest with you.”

Mr. Manchin, who is seeking a second term in deep-red West Virginia, already had a big GOP target on him.

Mr. Trump helped dial in the sights. He slammed Mr. Manchin for voting against a crack down on illegal immigration and for rewriting the Obamacare law.

Any doubt about Mr. Manchin’s tenuous position in the state was erased when the crowd delighted in Mr. Trump’s attacks on him. Some booed at the mention of the senator’s name.

The biggest offense pinned on Mr. Manchin was his vote against tax cuts, which, along with the vibrant economy, are the chief argument for Republicans in the midterms.

“You’ll have a chance to vote for a senator who will help our program,” Mr. Trump told the crowd of several hundred people.

Mr. Manchin is one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats in a year when every race is potentially key to deciding who controls the narrowly divided upper chamber.

Not coincidentally, Mr. Trump was seated on stage between two Republicans vying for their party’s nomination to challenge Mr. Manchin: Rep. Evan Jenkins and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey.

The president has been taking his tax cut message to states where he scored big wins in 2016 and where Democrats Senate incumbents, such as Mr. Manchin, are on the ropes.

Mr. Manchin is particularly vulnerable.

In 2016, Mr. Trump crushed Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in West Virginia with 68 percent of the vote. His more than 42 percent margin of victory was the largest by either party in Mountain State history.

The White Sulphur Springs event was Mr. Trump’s fourth visit as president to West Virginia. In August, Mr. Trump held a campaign-style rally in Huntington, West Virginia, where Gov. Jim Justice announced he was switching form the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.

Before the president arrived, Mr. Manchin said the tax cut bill had cost 200,000 West Virginians their health care by eliminating the Obamacare individual mandate.

He also said the tax cuts were part of a Republican plan to cut Social Security and Medicare.

“We need to quit playing politics with West Virginians’ lives,” Mr. Manchin said.

Mr. Manchin had tried to keep on good terms with Mr. Trump. Despite voting against the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, he has sided with the president in confirming Supreme Court Justice Neil M. Gorsuch and Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Mr. Manchin voted with the president 60 percent of the time, according to a scorecard by the political statistic website FiveThirtyEight.

At the conclusion of the event, Mr. Trump asked the crowd to pick between the two candidates.

“Should we do a little test? Who’s voting for Patrick?” asked the president, getting applause.

When the president asked who was voting for Mr. Jenkins, he elicited a much louder round of cheers.

Mr. Morrisey noted that the event was in Mr. Jenkins’ congressional district.

Mr. Trump said he thought the response was “about even.”

The two men also are contending with a strong run by Don Blankenship, the former CEO of Massey Energy who was convicted for conspiring to violate mine safety standards in the 2010 Upper Big Branch mine explosion that killed 29 miners.

Mr. Blankenship claimed this week that the Justice Department is taking another look at the prosecution that sent him to federal prison for a year in connection with the disaster.

• Seth McLaughlin contributed to this article.

• S.A. Miller can be reached at smiller@washingtontimes.com.

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