- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 6, 2018

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Democrat Joe Manchin pushed back against the popularity of President Donald Trump in his own state to win his second full term in the U.S. Senate.

Manchin endured the toughest campaign in his three-plus decades in West Virginia politics, defeating Republican state attorney general Patrick Morrisey on Tuesday.

Manchin, his voice cracking from a two-day motorcycle ride across the state Sunday and Monday to promote his campaign, told supporters in his victory speech, “You made history tonight. This is truly a win for West Virginia.”

Morrisey was a staunch supporter of Trump, the GOP president who became popular in Appalachia for making broad promises to put coal miners back to work despite grim economic forecasts for the industry. Despite registered Democrats far outnumbering Republicans in West Virginia, the state gave Trump his largest margin of victory - 42 percentage points - in 2016. He visited the state three times in recent months to rally for Morrisey.

“I never expected this race to be the national race it turned out to be,” Manchin said. “I never expected President Trump to come to this state as much as he did, sending Vice President (Mike) Pence, sending his family time after time after time. And you stood tall. What West Virginia said loud and clear tonight: Mr. President, we want our senator, not your senator.”

Manchin went a step further, urging a stop to “this absolute toxic rhetoric that’s going on in this country. We’ve got to bring people together. Mr. President, I want you to be the president of the United States, not the president of the divided states.”

Despite the scolding, Manchin has worked hard to cozy up to Trump, too, while nurturing a bipartisan brand.

Portraying himself as loyal to his home state rather than party ideology, Manchin was the only Senate Democrat to vote to confirm U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Morrisey said Manchin lacked leadership on the nomination, calling him “Sideline Joe” for waiting until the very end to announce his vote.

The 50-year-old Morrisey called himself a true conservative while his campaign accused Manchin of being “a dishonest Washington liberal who only acts bipartisan around election day …”

In his concession speech, Morrisey said “tonight we may have fallen a little bit short.” He told supporters that “your blood, sweat and tears mean a lot to me.”

A popular former governor, Manchin made maintaining health care protections for pre-existing conditions a major focus of his campaign and has hit Morrisey for joining a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

Manchin also questioned Morrisey’s past ties in Washington, D.C., as a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry - West Virginia leads the nation in the rate of drug overdose deaths. He also criticized Morrisey’s roots in New Jersey, where he lost a 2000 congressional race.

Among voters, Democrat Everett Neville of Milton said he supported Manchin because “he’s worked hard for West Virginia so far, even when he was governor.

Former Democratic state lawmaker Larry Linch of Clarksburg said he was concerned about Manchin’s support of Kavanaugh but voted for Manchin anyway.

Manchin “causes me concern at times, but I’ve known him for 25 years,” Linch said. “I know he kind of plays the field, but I think that’s what we need, more of them jumping from one side to another and not being staunch along political lines.”

The 71-year-old Manchin earned the backing of teacher unions after he supported them during a statewide strike earlier this year. He chided Morrisey for calling the strike “unlawful” and for saying his office was prepared to support authorities with legal remedies.

Manchin far outraised Morrisey in campaign contributions during the campaign.

Morrisey was hoping to give West Virginia two Republican U.S. senators for the first time since 1958, when John D. Hoblitzell, Jr. was appointed to serve a year after the death of Democrat Matthew M. Neely, and two elected GOP senators for the first time since 1929. Shelley Moore Capito’s first term ends in 2020.

Morrisey said he’ll “keep fighting for West Virginia’s soul” in his final two years as state attorney general.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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