Tuesday, July 17, 2018

How Does A Democrat Run In West Virginia? And How Does A Democrat Get Reelected?


Ojeda and Manchin

WV-03-- the southern third of West Virginia-- had two populist landslides in 2016. First Bernie beat Hillary by over 20 points and, in many counties got more votes than Trump did on the same day in the GOP primary. Then, in the general, the 3rd was Trump's biggest district in the state. He beat Hillary by a shocking 72.5% to 23.3%. The PVI of West Virginia is R+19. The PVI of WV-03 is R+23. But this cycle a Democratic state senator, Richard Ojeda, is leading in all the polls. Huh? Yeah. He picked the presidential candidate voters there backed both times-- Bernie in the primary and Trump in the general. and he's been very tight with arch-conservative U.S. Senator Joe Manchin who won every single county in the district last time he ran.

I first heard from the Ojeda campaign last April and I was... confused. He voted for Trump? They wanted a Blue America endorsement. His platform looked good and he was fighting-- fighting HARD-- for the teachers in their strike. Several teachers union members told me he was fighting harder for them than any other elected official. But I needed him to explain the Trump vote before we could endorse him. He never did-- and we never endorsed. I'm still rooting for him to win-- just not raising money for him. Those are two different things.

My question has always been the same-- my responsibility to Blue American contributors-- how will he vote when he gets to Congress? Like Joe Manchin? Like Bernie? I don't know. He says he's lost faith in Trump. OK, that's good. I don't know a single Democratic candidate running for Congress who has any faith in Trump.

Ojeda seems to be confused too. He says different things to different audiences. Talking to conservatives he said "When you hear about illegal aliens getting benefits and you have people here starving to death and can’t get nothing, it’s just a slap in the face. When you start talking about bringing in refugees and when they get here they get medical and dental and they get set up with some funds-- what do we get? So when people hear Donald Trump saying we’re going to take benefits away from people who come here illegally and give them to people who work, that sounds pretty good." But when he addresses progressives he says that his policy regarding immigration is that "open arms is what we should be all about. Let’s show people love regardless of where they’re from." Still, even during this interview, Ojeda made not one criticism of the policies, deregulations, corporate tax cuts, and war policies Trump has initiated. So I don't know. The DCCC added him to their Red-to-Blue list and, believe me, if he was a die hard Bernie populist-- in a district like that-- there would be no chance that that would have happened. The DCCC hates populists (more than they hate Republicans).

Yesterday, Evan Halper," writing for the L.A. Times called him a "fiery populist" and contrasted him to his political mentor, Manchin, who they dubbed "a business-friendly centrist"-- Contrasting paths toward a Democratic resurgence in West Virginia. "A cauldron of populist anger, the 47-year-old Ojeda breaks most every rule the Democratic consultant class has laid out for winning back coal country," wrote Halper. "He is nowhere near the playbook of West Virginia’s Democratic U.S. senator, Joe Manchin III, the folksy centrist and on-again, off-again President Trump ally who many in the party see as one of the last hopes for steering Democrats back to power in Appalachia."
Both Ojeda and Manchin are-- at least for now-- defying conventional wisdom by leading in polls in places where the 2016 election results suggest Republicans should be far ahead. Trump won this state by nearly 42 points. He won Ojeda’s district by nearly 50. A recent poll by Monmouth University showed Ojeda six points ahead of his Republican opponent, Carol Miller. Manchin holds a similarly sized lead in recent polls.

Their campaigns reflect two very different paths Democrats are testing as they seek a way back to relevance in white, working-class communities that abandoned the party for Trump, and where support for the president remains strong.

Both candidates are keenly aware that a poll-tested policy agenda alone won’t cut it here. For all their differences, their campaigns display at least one belief in common: Sharp instincts for the identity politics of the region will be needed to cut Trump’s coattails short in the upcoming midterm. It’s a point that many party activists in coastal Democratic strongholds struggle to comprehend at a time when Democratic candidates feel intense pressure to take up the talking points of the Resistance.

Ojeda voted for Trump. West Virginia politicos generally agree Manchin’s biggest career misstep may have been endorsing Hillary Clinton.

Manchin has spent the last 18 months trying to make amends with his electorate. He endeared himself to Trump enough to warrant consideration for the post of energy secretary. When Trump, instead, nominated Rick Perry of Texas for the job, Manchin introduced him at the Senate confirmation hearing.

Ojeda, for his part, has soured on Trump since the election, but it irks him that party leaders remain perplexed about how a fiery progressive like him could cast a ballot for the New York billionaire.

It’s simple, Ojeda said: The economic vision the Democrats offered for Appalachia was insulting and hopeless.

“You can’t take a coal miner making $95,000 a year, the only work in these parts where you can support a family without having to hold down three jobs at once … and tell them you can make minimum wage or we can give you job training for jobs that don’t exist in West Virginia,” Ojeda said during an interview at his threadbare office in his hometown of Logan.

Sure, he said, Trump’s promises were overblown. “But when one person says we will train you in something that does not exist here, and another person says, ‘I can keep coal alive, I can help you maintain the job making $95,000 a year and help you take care of your wife and children,’ what are you going to do?”

...“This is not about the message, it is about the messenger,” said Robert Rupp, a professor of history and political science at West Virginia Wesleyan College. “He is one of us. Even if voters don’t like what Ojeda is saying, they like where he stands.”

The message is a form of in-your-face populism stylistically similar to Trump’s, but different in the targets of his anger.

“We have to stop letting people come in here and make millionaires and billionaires of themselves off of West Virginia while West Virginia remains poor,” Ojeda said, as he launched into one of his signature indictments of big energy and big drug companies.

“You deploy to other countries and fight this nation’s wars because you have this sense that maybe these people can enjoy what we have in America because we are the greatest. And then you retire one day and you return and realize it was all a bunch of garbage. It was a lie.”

That populism marks a turnabout from West Virginia’s tradition of electing less volatile politicians, like Democratic Sens. Robert C. Byrd, John D. Rockefeller IV and also Manchin, valued for their ability to work within the system. Now, the system no longer works for most voters here.

Ojeda, a first-term state senator, shot onto the radar of labor leaders last year after unflinchingly taking up the cause of West Virginia’s teachers, who went on a strike that rattled school systems nationwide. He is angry that as teachers struggle to pay rent, energy companies eager to extract the state’s massive deposits of natural gas balk at an extraction tax that could be used to boost their pay.

As his community reels from the opioid crisis, he says to any politician “helping or protecting big pharma while they are killing our people, you are a murderer.” He blames feckless legislators beholden to drug interests for delaying implementation of a medical marijuana law Ojeda muscled through the Legislature.

In his own, more measured way, Manchin is also seizing on healthcare. The potential unraveling of the Affordable Care Act by Republicans and a more conservative Supreme Court is a key campaign issue for him in a state where 800,000 people have preexisting conditions, and most of them can’t afford insurance without government help.

“If insurance companies can go back to playing the games they played before, they can decide the fate of most of West Virginia,” Manchin said Wednesday at a Washington conference held by the Economic Innovation Group. “Whether they can buy insurance, afford insurance or whether they are one illness away from catastrophic ruin. These are the things we deal with.”

But the senator made clear his frustration with his own party, a theme that plays well at home. He recalled how Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) asked him after Trump’s election, “What happened to the West Virginia Democrats?”

“I said, ‘Not a thing. They want to know what happened to the Washington Democrats,’” Manchin said.

When the ringing of his mobile phone interrupted Manchin, fellow panelist Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) joked that the caller was probably Trump. Not skipping a beat, Manchin replied that it probably was.

Manchin, who is running for reelection against West Virginia attorney general Patrick Morrisey, is sitting on an impressive campaign war chest. Money is a bigger problem for Ojeda. His race against Miller, a wealthy Republican legislator expected to have considerable resources, is fast becoming a test case of how far modern grass-roots fundraising can take an unconventional candidate.

Help has also come from an unexpected place: Silicon Valley. Last year, as his campaign got underway, Ojeda found himself at a Palo Alto wine bar, pitching his vision to tech innovators at an event sponsored by the People’s House Project, a political action committee established by the journalist Krystal Ball to boost working-class Democrats running for office. Ball worked with Rep. Ro Khanna, the Democrat who represents much of the Silicon Valley, to introduce Ojeda to the tech world.

“That trip was unbelievable,” said Ball. “Richard had been all over the world with the military, but he had never been to California. He got in a room with these tech lawyers and entrepreneurs and executives and said, ‘I don’t know why you don’t think we have smart people in West Virginia.’

“These were progressive people who saw themselves as open-minded and not bigoted. They realized they had a lot of stereotypes about what West Virginians are like.”

Khanna, who has been travelling to coal country in an effort to build economic and political alliances, said Ojeda has a message the rest of the party should listen to.

“We default to the same platitudes and talking points people have been running on for the last 20 years,” the congressman said in an interview. “Party leaders can learn from [Ojeda]. Here is someone doing well in a part of the country where we have not been doing well.”
I know how Manchin is going to vote when he's reelected-- like a moderate Republican, just the way he's been voting. I still don't know how Ojeda's going to vote. No one does. I'm not even sure if he knows himself. It sure will be interesting to see though. As of the June 30 FEC filing deadline, he had raised $514,796 and Carol Miller had raised $463,818-- although $205,400 of that had come right out of her own fat bank account. The most recent poll, late June by Monmouth, shows Ojeda beating her among likely voters 47-41% or, if the Blue Wave hits West Virginia, 48-39%. And then we'll all find out how he'll be voting.

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At 12:01 AM, Anonymous zeeman said...

Hey WV audience what do you think? Watched this clip this A.M. was impressed but I'm from AZ-09 so it will not effect me (I have my own political demon(s) Sinema to deal with. Leave some comments. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-4uJ6MX1I0

At 6:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But I needed (Ojeda) to explain the Trump vote before we could endorse him. He never did-- and we never endorsed. I'm still rooting for him to win..."

In a nutshell, the insanity of saying "hold your nose and vote for a terrible candidate".

And manchin does NOT vote like a MODERATE republican. He votes like a republican, but THERE ARE NO MODERATE REPUBLICANS. They don't even exist in the democrap party.

All who vote with republicans are Nazis. You have to be insane to think otherwise at this point. fucking insane.

The lesser evilism that began in 1980 has now brought us/US down to the point where someone can rationalize voting for a Nazi because he'll be a little bit nicer than the other Nazi.

So DWT, how do you justify telling supposedly lefty voters that there are degrees of naziism, and we need to affirm the nicer ones. Puhleeeeze 'splain.

THERE ARE NO GOOD (or even a little bit nicer) NAZIS!!

At 6:46 AM, Blogger edmondo said...

It's interesting that you want Ojeda to explain his vote for Trump.

I want every Democratic candidate to explain their votes for Hillary and Nancy and Chuck before I will even consider voting for them.

At 7:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe Ojeda deserves continues observation, for this article doesn't supply enough data to make a decision. But his voting for Trump is not something he's going to be able to wriggle out from underneath easily. He might as well have a collapsed coal seam on his back.

At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

doesn't supply enough data? he voted for trump.

you don't think that shoots his thought process all to hell already?

you think you might want to vote for someone who can make a mistake as big as that?

This shit is what a functioning brain would call a "no brainer".

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not talking about me, 4:14. I don't live in WV. What bears watching is whether the opioid freaks are attracted to Ojeda. If they are and he wins, then that state isn't worth any future effort and should be left to wither on the vine, so to speak.

PS: I never met anyone intelligent from WV.

At 6:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK 5:09. gotcha.

Actually, I've met one intelligent person from WV. But that person was pure evil.

We have many states like that.


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