When Joe Manchin was in the fight of his political life, vying for reelection in a state where being a Democrat had long been out of fashion, the senator’s opening message to voters focused on the place he knew best: Farmington, West Virginia.
Manchin argued throughout his last reelection campaign that it was his upbringing in the small Appalachian town set on the banks of Buffalo Creek — from working at his family’s local grocery store to watching how relationships in his hometown transcended political lines — that helped make him a politician who would listen to even his most ardent detractors and use his power to make sure every bipartisan avenue was exhausted before he picked the best option for the people of his state.
That persona has served Manchin well, to date. He’s survived election after election in this increasingly Republican bastion to become the most conservative Democrat in an evenly divided Senate — a role that allows him to put his stamp on anything his party wants to accomplish, which includes just about everything these days.
Manchin has wielded this influence to change the coronavirus relief package, force Democrats to try and work with Republicans on infrastructure and squash any talk of getting rid of Senate rules that would make it easier for the Democrats, currently in the majority, to pass President Joe Biden’s agenda.