Manchin faces firestorm at home following Kavanaugh vote

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Danielle Walker cried on Joe Manchin's shoulder after she shared her story of sexual assault in the senator's office. She thought he listened.

The 42-year-old Morgantown woman said she was both devastated and furious when Manchin became the only Democrat in the U.S. Senate to support President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

"I feel raped all over again," Walker told The Associated Press.

A day after Manchin broke with his party on what may be the most consequential vote of the Trump era, the vulnerable Democrat is facing a political firestorm back home. While Republicans — including one of the president's sons — are on the attack, the most passionate criticism is coming from Manchin's very own Democratic base, a small but significant portion of the electorate he needs to turn out in force to win re-election next month. A Manchin loss would put his party's hopes of regaining control of the Senate virtually out of reach.

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West Virginia Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin (R), who broke ranks to vote with Republicans for Jeff Sessions to become U.S. Attorney General, looks towards U.S President Donald Trump during a Supreme Court listening session at the White House in Washington, U.S., February 9, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) walks into Trump Tower on December 12, 2016 in New York City. President-elect Donald Trump continues to hold meetings with potential members of his cabinet at his office.

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U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) (C) arrives in the underground subway system for a vote at the U.S. Capitol in Washington May 14, 2015. President Barack Obama's trade agenda, which focuses squarely on developing stronger ties with Asia, gets a shot at new life on Thursday when the U.S. Senate is set to hold an important test vote on legislation to help him complete a Pacific Rim deal.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks on his mobile phone as he arrives for the weekly Democratic caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, February 4, 2014.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) shakes hands with U.S. Senator Joe Manchin as they arrive on Capitol Hill before Kerry briefs members of the Senate Banking Committee behind closed doors about Iran and his recent negotiations in Europe, in Washington November 13, 2013.

(REUTERS/Larry Downing)

US Senator Joe Manchin leaves after a meeting with US President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower December 12, 2016 in New York.

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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) meets with Supreme Court Justice nominee Merrick Garland (L) in his office on Capitol Hill April 5, 2016 in Washington, DC. Garland is meeting with senators today while visiting Capitol Hill.

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From left, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, and Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., conduct a news conference in the Capitol on airport security, April, 05, 2016. They urged that new security provisions to help protect 'soft targets' be included in the upcoming Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization legislation.

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U.S. Senator Joe Manchin from West Virginia arrives to meet with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., December 12, 2016.

(REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

US President Barack Obama steps off Air Force One with Senator Joe Manchin, D-WV, upon arrival at McLaughlin Air National Guard Base in Charleston, West Virginia on October 21, 2015. Obama is in Charleston, West Virginia to take part in a discussion on drug abuse.

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Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., attend a luncheon in the Capitol Visitor Center to present a Congressional Gold Medal to Sgt. John M. Watson, 96, of Beckley, W.Va., who was recognized by the Tuskegee Airmen Association, May 20, 2015.

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U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) talks on his mobile phone as he arrives for the weekly Democratic caucus luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, February 4, 2014. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
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Walker, a first-time Democratic candidate for the state legislature, said she may not vote at all in the state's high-stakes Senate election. Julia Hamilton, a 30-year-old educator who serves on the executive committee of the Monongalia County Democratic Party, vowed to sit out the Senate race as well.

"At some point you have to draw a line," Hamilton said. "I have heard from many, many people — especially women. They won't be voting for Manchin either."

Manchin defended his vote in a Sunday interview as being based on fact, not emotion. He praised the women who shared their stories of sexual trauma, Walker among them, but said he "could not find any type of link or connection" that Kavanaugh was a rapist.

The woman who testified to the Senate about Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford, accused him of sexual assault but not rape when they were high school students more than 30 years ago. Two other women stepped forward late in the confirmation process to accuse the appeals court judge of sexual misconduct in high school or college. Their stories resonated with women who had suffered sexual trauma and fueled opposition to Kavanaugh's confirmation.

"They weren't going to be satisfied, or their healing process, until we convicted this person," Manchin told The Associated Press. "I couldn't do it. You talk about two wrongs trying to make a right. It just wasn't in my heart and soul to do that."

Manchin insisted over and over that his vote wasn't based on politics.

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Activists hold a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh outside the court in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists rally inside the Senate Hart Office Building during a protest in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and in support for Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Activists hold a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A woman thrusts her fist in support of activists rallying inside the Senate Hart Office Building during a protest in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and in support of Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS//Mary F. Calvert
Activists protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh outside the court in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Protesters demonstrate against Judge Brett Kavanaugh's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Mary F. Calvert TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Activists hold a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and in support for Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982, in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
A demonstrator sits on the ground during a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Workers and onlookers watch as activists rally inside the Senate Hart Office Building during a protest in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and in support for Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists rally inside the Senate Hart Office Building during a protest in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists hold a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists rally inside the Senate Hart Office Building during a protest in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and in support for Christine Blasey Ford, the university professor who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault in 1982, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists hold a protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists hold a protest march and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh near the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists protest and rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh outside the court in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
Activists march during a rally in opposition to U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in Washington, U.S., October 4, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 04: Demonstrators wait in-line to enter Hart Senate Office Building for a protest against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh October 4, 2018 at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. Senators had an opportunity to review a new FBI background investigation into accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh and Republican leaders are moving to have a vote on his confirmation this weekend. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Protesters occupy the Senate Hart building during a rally against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on October 4, 2018. - Top Republicans voiced confidence Thursday that Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the US Supreme Court this weekend, as they asserted that an FBI probe had found nothing to support sex assault allegations against Donald Trump's nominee.'Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed on Saturday,' Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
A protester holds up a sign in the Senate Hart building during a rally against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on October 4, 2018. - Top Republicans voiced confidence Thursday that Brett Kavanaugh will be confirmed to the US Supreme Court this weekend, as they asserted that an FBI probe had found nothing to support sex assault allegations against Donald Trump's nominee.'Judge Kavanaugh should be confirmed on Saturday,' Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 04: Protesters chant their support for fellow demonstrators who are being arrested by U.S. Capitol Police for protesting against the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh in the atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. Senators had an opportunity to review a new FBI background investigation into accusations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh and Republican leaders are moving to have a vote on his confirmation this weekend. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 04: (L to R) Bob Bland, Co-President, Women's March; model and actress Emily Ratajkowski and actress and comedian Amy Schumer attend the Brett Kavanaugh U.S. Supreme Court Confirmation Protest in front of the Supreme Court on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
A protester opposed to Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh holds a sign outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2018. Senate Republicans pushed toward a make-or-break test vote on Kavanaugh as key GOP holdouts Jeff Flake and Susan Collins said an FBI investigation prompted by sexual misconduct allegations against him appeared to be thorough. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators protest US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Supreme Court on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. - A new FBI investigation into Kavanaugh found nothing to corroborate sexual assault allegations against US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Thursday. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh near the US Capitol on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. - A new FBI investigation into Kavanaugh found nothing to corroborate sexual assault allegations against US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Thursday. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Supreme Court on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. - A new FBI investigation into Kavanaugh found nothing to corroborate sexual assault allegations against US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Thursday. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Supreme Court on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. - A new FBI investigation into Kavanaugh found nothing to corroborate sexual assault allegations against US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Thursday. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest US Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh in front of the Supreme Court on October 4, 2018 in Washington, DC. - A new FBI investigation into Kavanaugh found nothing to corroborate sexual assault allegations against US President Donald Trump's nominee for the Supreme Court, US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said Thursday. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
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There is little doubt, however, that his vote was in line with the wishes of many West Virginia voters, who gave Trump a victory in 2016 by 42 percentage points. There simply aren't enough Democrats in the state to re-elect Manchin. He needs a significant chunk of Trump's base to win.

One West Virginia Trump supporter, 74-year-old Linda Ferguson, explained the politics bluntly as she watched the parade at Saturday's Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins.

"If he didn't vote for Kavanaugh he could have kissed his seat goodbye," Ferguson said.

While he may have represented the majority of his state, Manchin's political challenges are far from over.

The clash over Kavanaugh, who was confirmed by the Senate on Saturday, has injected new energy into each party's political base. While that may help Democrats in their fight for the House majority, which is largely taking place in America's suburbs, there are signs it's hurting vulnerable Democrats in rural Republican-leaning states like North Dakota, Missouri and West Virginia. Phil Bredesen, who said he would have voted for Kavanaugh, could also face new challenges in his bid to flip Tennessee's Senate seat to the Democratic column.

For much of the year, Manchin has held a significant lead in public and private polls over his Republican opponent, state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey. Yet Republican operatives familiar with the race report a definite tightening over the last week.

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Brett Kavanaugh sworn in as Supreme Court justice as protesters rally
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Brett Kavanaugh sworn in as Supreme Court justice as protesters rally
Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by Chief Justice John Roberts as Kavanaugh's wife Ashley holds the family bible and his daughters Liza and Margaret look on in a handout photo provided by the U.S. Supreme Court taken at the Supreme Court building in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2018. Fred Schilling/Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States/Handout via Reuters ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 6: In this handout photo provided by the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, (Retired) administers the Judicial Oath to Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh as his wife Ashley Kavanaugh holds the Bible while joined by their daughters Margaret and Liza, in the Justices Conference Room at the Supreme Court Building on October 6, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Fred Schilling/Supreme Court of the United States via Getty Images)
A protester sits on the lap of "Lady Justice" on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building as demonstrators storm the steps and doors of the Supreme Court while Judge Brett Kavanaugh is being sworn in as an Associate Justice of the court inside on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Demonstrators protest in the street behind the U.S. Supreme Court building as they wait for Justice Brett Kavanaugh to depart after he was sworn in as an Associate Justice in ceremonies at the court on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2018. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Demostrators chant ion front of the locked doors at the top of the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building while Judge Brett Kavanaugh is being sworn in as an Associate Justice of the court inside on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Protesters overrun the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court as Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in as an Associate Justice in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2018. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
A man prays amidst protesters demonstrating on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building as Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in inside in Washington, U.S. October 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Protester in support of and against the appointment of Judge Brett Kavanaugh demonstrate on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building as Judge Kavanaugh is sworn in as an Associate Justice of the court inside on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Annabella Helman of Indianapolis, Indiana, and Olivia McAuliffe of McLean, Virginia join hands as protesters overrun the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court as Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in as an Associate Justice in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2018. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
A protester stands on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court building in front of police after they cleared the steps of demonstrators while Judge Brett Kavanaugh was being sworn in as an Associate Justice of the court inside on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., October 6, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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In an interview, Morrisey called Democrats' fight against Kavanaugh a "three-ring circus" that "energized a lot of people in West Virginia."

He acknowledged that Manchin voted the right way for the state, but called the vote "irrelevant" because another swing vote, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, had already given Kavanaugh the final vote he needed.

"He waited until the last possible minute after Susan Collins declared for him to take a position, effectively allowing Maine to decide how West Virginia's going to decide," Morrisey charged. "We shouldn't reward that kind of cowardice."

Echoing the attack, Donald Trump Jr., mockingly called Manchin "a real profile in courage" on Twitter.

When asked about the social media jab, the West Virginia senator slapped away the insult from the younger Trump.

Donald Trump Jr. is "entitled to his opinion, he's just not entitled to his own facts to justify what he's saying. He doesn't really know anything," Manchin told the AP.

The Democrat conceded that he followed Collins' lead out of "respect" — he didn't want to get in the way of her high-profile Friday afternoon announcement on the Senate floor.

"Nothing would have changed my vote," Manchin declared. "Susan took the lead, Susan did the due diligence. ... She's going to give her speech and I'm not going to jump in front of 3 o'clock. I'm just not going to do it."

That wasn't good enough for Tammy Means, a 57-year-old florist from Charleston, who was among thousands tailgating outside West Virginia University's football stadium in Morgantown on Saturday.

Means, a registered Democrat who voted for Trump, said she also voted for Manchin in the past.

"I'm not going to anymore. Nope," she said with a laugh as she sipped a Smirnoff Ice. She's glad Manchin voted for Kavanaugh, but said, "He's just doing it so he can get elected."

Across the parking lot, 63-year-old John Vdovjac said he was deeply disappointed by Manchin's vote. Still, the Democrat said he'd probably vote for Manchin this fall.

"I recognize the position he's in because the state's heavily Republican now," said Vdovjac, a retired educator from Wheeling, as he helped grill hotdogs and hamburgers. "But he's lost my loyalty.

Manchin knows he needs to explain his vote to his constituents, although he didn't have any public events scheduled this weekend. Before and after the AP interview, conducted at Charleston's International House of Pancakes, he told everyone who would listen — including his waitress — that his Kavanaugh vote was not based on emotion.

"I made my decision based on facts," the senator told Kevin Estep, a 57-year-old registered Democrat and Trump voter who was eating buttered pancakes with his family.

"You hang in there and vote your heart," Estep, who lives in nearby St. Albans, told the senator.

After Manchin left the building, Estep warned that the #MeToo movement "is like a dam that's about to break open."

Asked whether he'd support Manchin this fall, he responded, "Always."

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