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Manchin: Obama is 'dead wrong' on cap and trade

By Aaron Blake

President Obama may not be on the ballot in West Virginia, but he was a constant presence in the lone debate in the state's Senate race, held Monday night.

Republican John Raese, debate questioners, and Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin repeatedly brought up the president, as Raese sought to tie the governor to Obama and Manchin did his best to distance himself from Obama and find middle ground.

Manchin sought the most distance from Obama on the Democratic cap and trade bill, which has stalled in Congress and is unpopular in the coal-reliant state.

"I respectfully disagree with President Obama. He is dead wrong on cap and trade," Manchin said. "It would be the ruin not only of our state of West Virginia but of the entire economy of this country."

Manchin then, almost preemptively, said he will not be tied to the president.

"I hate to inform my opponent, but Mr. Obama's name will not be on the ballot for U.S. Senate in West Virginia; it'll be me," Manchin said.

Raese came out in the debate as a conservative's conservative, calling for a repeal of the minimum wage and a permanent extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. He said the Democratic-passed healthcare bill is the worst piece of legislation "that has ever come out of the United States Senate and House," and called global warming a "myth."

"I don't believe in that myth," Raese said. "I think that what we have to do is find more coal, more accessible coal, and have the permitwork in a much easier state and fashion so we can really start growing this country with its natural resources."

On healthcare, Manchin has done a delicate dance since being supportive of the bill earlier this year. He offered qualified support for many aspects of the bill and said full repeal isn't the way to go.

"I'm not prepared to scrap the entire bill," Manchin said. "I'm not prepared to tell your child with a pre-existing condition that they can't be covered.

"There is a lot of good in the bill that basically Democrats and Republicans agree with. That's a pretty good start."

Manchin largely shied from attacking Raese, who was seated at the far end of a table of four candidates. He touched momentarily on privatizing social security and the repeal of the minimum wage, which Democrats have hit Raese on, but in neither case did Manchin tie Raese into his comments.

Nonetheless, Raese was asked about his position on the minimum wage. He said it hurts the economy and actually prevents wages from rising.

"Manchin and Obama enjoy watching people work for $7.25; frankly, I don't," Raese said. "The minimum wage is one of the worst things possible for unemployment."

Manchin was mostly on the defensive, leveling almost no charges at Raese, the man who seeks to upend him.

Manchin did, at the end of the debate, suggest the self-funding Raese has been dishonest in his attempts to label a bill Manchin signed as a cap and trade equivalent.

"If you have enough money, and you can spend that much money to scare people and make them believe something that's absolutely false, that's what you get," Manchin said.

Manchin closed the debate by stating that Americans should be rooting for their present regardless of his party.

"President Obama or President Bush - I'm an American and I want my presidents to succeed," Manchin said.

Mountain Party candidate Jesse Johnson and Constitution Party candidate Jeff Becker also took part in the debate. Johnson is thought to potentially steal some votes from Manchin's left, but he didn't engage either frontrunner during the hour-long debate.

By Aaron Blake  | October 18, 2010; 9:58 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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