Prior to Manchin addressing about 200 seniors, Colleen Skotnicki, who said she is in her 70s, described herself as an undecided voter unhappy with all of the negative advertising in the Senate race and concerned about the solvency of Social Security, the prospect of higher taxes, and the outsourcing of jobs to other countries.
But after Manchin’s remarks, which featured his trademark cheerleading about the “real” West Virginia, the strength and resourcefulness of its people, and the good shape of the state’s finances — versus the Mountain State’s national reputation as a rural backwater — Skotnicki changed her tune and volunteered that she will support the governor over Raese. “Hearing his speech, I’m voting for Joe, she said. “This is how he needs to talk to us.”
The political dilemma for Manchin has been so problematic that even in front of friendly Democratic audiences, he makes assurances that he opposes the health care reform bill as passed and would have voted against it, does not support Obama’s energy policies and would work against the White House and Senate Democratic leaders on other issues.
But After several days on the defensive, Manchin — who previously served in the state Legislature and as secretary of state, appeared buoyed about his chances following the warm reception he received in Elkins. Early voting is West Virginia is scheduled to begin tomorrow.
“I think we’re coming together at the right time. We didn’t anticipate this race, because I just thought Sen. Byrd would live forever. So with that being said, I just wasn’t prepared. I just never felt the day would come,” Manchin said in an interview Saturday afternoon. “We just took a while to ramp up, and now we’re serious. Our people are all serious. I think people in the state are serious. They’re starting to look, and they’re going to judge you, and I really believe that people in West Virginia judge you on what you’ve been able to do, not what somebody tells you they’re going to do.”
In contrast to Manchin’s regular-guy magnetism, Raese is reserved and businesslike, although personable and not without a sense of humor. Where Manchin focuses on pumping up the pride of West Virginians against outsider criticism, Raese’s campaign message emphasizes national concerns.
Regardless of the group Raese is addressing, students, parents, industry representatives or GOP activists, he consistently speaks about the country’s need to return to Constitutional values, renew the belief in “American exceptionalism” and prevent Obama from dismantling free-market capitalism. Raese describes himself as to the right of the tea party, deviating from conservative orthodoxy only in his support of government-funded unemployment benefits.
“When I make speeches and when I talk, I talk about things that we can do to make this country better. I talk a lot about capitalism,” Raese said in an interview Thursday evening, following an address to the Association of Cold Rolled Strip Steel Producers at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs. “When you travel around West Virginia, you don’t have to look at any polls... people are angry, they’re upset, they’re hot — whatever you want to say. And, the reason they are, they don’t like the direction this country is going.”