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Joe Manchin, West Virginia’s popular and successful Democrat governor, is struggling in the waning days of his campaign with a difficult issue: How to respond to the political realities of President Obama’s health care law? He’s not alone in this — as I discussed with Politico’s Sarah Kliff last week, there are numerous Democrat candidates across the country who are tangling with this challenge. But Manchin’s admission yesterday is still astounding, given the clash with his statement last year that he was “totally behind health care reform.”
The governor, who supported the bill while it was pending, told Wallace he didn’t know “how reaching” the legislation was.
“Reaching as far as they did in the — in the weeds of the bill that we didn’t know about, no one else knew about until it came out — knowing that, I would not have supported that or voted for that at that time,” he said.
Manchin had made similar statements to the Gazette last month, saying he “wouldn’t have voted for the final version of that thing with the way that it came out.”
I expect politicians to find a skeptical audience for this kind of paternity shifting.
Manchin is a truly moderate Democrat, but his embrace of this health care legislation earlier in the process — a mistake, given that his input was never sought on the legislative mishmash of ideas which ended up passing — is a clear political millstone. Obama’s one-size-fits-all solution is already putting governors of rural states in a bind, and smart Democrats like Tennessee’s Phil Bredesen are already looking for ways to escape its vast budgetary requirements.
This is just one more example of having the people setting policy be those who never have real competition at the ballot box. San Francisco is a very different place than West Virginia, and while Nancy Pelosi once promised that Obama’s law would in time become a popular measure, from Manchin’s perspective, that’s not happening soon enough… if it ever happens at all.