December 09, 2013

Media attention keeps focus on Manchin | Charleston Daily Mail

None of the members of the national television crew with Sen. Joe Manchin had ever fired a gun.

So instead of just shooting extra footage of the Democrat expending a few rounds, the Fox News team joined Manchin Thursday morning in firing away.

“They did good. The girls about showed us all up,” Manchin said later that afternoon, after an interview with the station.

If people outside of West Virginia know about Manchin, there’s a good chance it’s because of guns.

They might recall a campaign advertisement from 2010, when a rifle-toting Manchin blasted a hole through a piece of legislation.

But West Virginia’s junior senator gained national attention more recently for his proposal in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy.

The measure called for background checks on people purchasing guns online or at trade shows.

It failed by a handful of votes in the Senate, but a $200,000 advertising battle between the National Rifle Association and Manchin helped keep the idea front and center on the country’s political landscape.

That attention took the measure and debate to “a whole other dimension,” Manchin said.

“It’s funny, when you evaluate it on that level, there are so few people I guess that are going based on the facts and their convictions, of trying to do and improve things,” Manchin said.

“(They) worry more about how it will affect them personally or their political stature or their political standing in the party.

“And I’ve never put that ahead of what I was there to do. I think that’s what’s kind of elevated it. It’s an anomaly right now. I don’t think it used to always be that way.”

Manchin, 66, is still relatively new in Washington, D.C. Heading to Capitol Hill in late 2010 for the remainder of the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s unexpired term, Manchin won his first election to a full Senate term last fall.

Thursday he downplayed the idea that the political cover of no imminent campaign made it easier for him to introduce the background check bill this year. The only thing that matters is whether he can explain his decisions “back home.”

He brought those explanations to a crowd of local politicians, law enforcement officers, lobbyists and others during Thursday’s lunch meeting at the Fifth Quarter restaurant in Charleston.

The group included Charleston Mayor Danny Jones, Kanawha Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Bailey, Sheriff Johnny Rutherford, Kanawha County Schools Superintendent Ron Duerring, state AFL-CIO President Kenny Perdue and others.

The senator bounced from topic to topic. The nation’s finances are his key focus, but he’s very committed to fixing the national health care law and to helping veterans find jobs, he told the room.

Oft-used phrases found their way into the conversation: Manchin described an idea as a “commonsense” measure. The concept of “guilt by association” has transformed into “guilt by conversation,” Manchin proclaimed, his frequent explanation for difficulty in working across the aisle.

A man who said he’s a member of the AARP told the senator he’s fed up with the bickering in Washington.

Manchin agreed, noting the general public’s dislike extends to people of either party in political office. Referring to an ambiguous “them,” a Manchin metaphor drew laughter from the crowd.

“I told them this, I said, ‘Back in West Virginia, you jump in the pig pen, by God, you get a little smell on ya!’” The senator’s spent a fair amount of time in the slop this year, and the nation’s noticed.

The New York Times recently described Manchin as a “centrist Democrat” who “has shown an impulsive, almost reflexive willingness to reject the position of his leaders and try to entice fellow senators to a middle ground.”

The article outlined some of Manchin’s skirmishes with Democrats: he wants a one-year delay of the penalty associated with not having health insurance under President Barack Obama’s signature legislation, the Affordable Care Act. He opposed Obama’s call for military action in Syria, and supported a GOP-backed student loan bill.

It pointed to his two-year “pestering” as part of the reason the Federal Drug Administration recently moved toward reclassifying hydrocodone — the active ingredient in power painkillers like Lortab and Vicodin — as a Schedule II drug.

Manchin championed the move Thursday, a change that increases regulations on the medication, including cutting the amount of medication a patient can receive at one time.

(After the meeting, he said he hasn’t spoken about the issue with his daughter Heather Bresch, CEO of pharmaceutical giant Mylan Inc. “We don’t talk about business at all. I can’t, with the public company she has. We don’t put ourselves in that position,” Manchin said after the lunch.)

Like many other West Virginia politicians, Manchin is quick to criticize any regulation from the president or the Environmental Protection Agency he deems detrimental to coal.

This coal policy clash appears frequently in the national media: recently, the Wall Street Journal, Politico and others chronicled his eventually successful campaign to keep Ron Binz from becoming the leader of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

In October, Roll Call quoted Manchin saying, “I want to kick myself” for leaving his job as governor to run for Senate. Three years in to the federal position, he said he’s still trying to bring people together.

The Fox News crew and an Associated Press reporter followed Manchin Thursday. Abby Huntsman, host of a daily show broadcast nationally on MSNBC, reportedly sampled the fare at a local Tudor’s Biscuit World when she and a crew joined Manchin Friday in West Virginia.

The national media watches Manchin. They want to know what he’s going to do next, legislatively or politically.

“They keep thinking I’m going to do this or that. I don’t know, I’ve never plotted out what I’m going to do,” Manchin said. “I always want to put myself in a position to do the best I could to help people.”

Laughing, he added, “I don’t have the ambition to hit the campaign trail.”

Asked directly if he’d thought about running for governor again or seeking higher office, Manchin pointed to the around the- clock nature of the media.

He talked about getting through the 2014 election cycle.

He didn’t answer the question.

“Whatever happens will happen,” he said.

By:  Dave Boucher
Source: Guns, other issues keep senator in national spotlight