Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia is on track to be the only Senate Democrat to break ranks with his party and vote to elevate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.
A final confirmation vote is not expected until Saturday, but Manchin came out in support of Kavanaugh on Friday, releasing a statement immediately after Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said that she too would back the nominee in a lengthy Senate floor speech.
Manchin’s announcement immediately made him a target of sharp criticism and highlighted the unique and at times complicated position the red state Democrat running for re-election in 2018 occupies within his own party and in the Senate.
In an interview that aired on CNN on Friday, protestors nearly shouted down the senator with chants of “shame!’ as he attempted to explain his decision.
“I believe Dr. Ford. Something happened to Dr. Ford,” Manchin said, but quickly added the caveat, “I don’t believe the facts show it was Brett Kavanaugh.”
One reporter asked, “Do you think there’s still a place for you in the Democratic Party after this?”
Manchin replied by saying, “I’m just a West Virginian,” and added, “I didn’t look at this from a political standpoint.”
But it’s undeniable that the conservative Democrat is navigating a challenging political landscape as he seeks re-election in a state that Donald Trump won by double digits in the 2016 presidential election.
West Virginia once reliably elected Democrats, but the state has turned a dark shade of red in recent years. Manchin has positioned himself as a centrist who cares more about the state than party identification and he has taken pains to emphasize that he has a good relationship with the President in an era where his party’s liberal wing has called for all-out resistance to the Trump administration.
Recent polls have shown Manchin with a lead in his 2018 race. But an increasingly polarized political environment has made him vulnerable all the same.
Republicans will keep attacking Manchin in an attempt to flip his Senate seat no matter how many times he decides to cross the aisle and vote to advance their party’s priorities instead of his own.
Not long after he announced he would back Kavanaugh, Manchin faced an attack from Donald Trump Jr., the President’s son.
“A real profile in courage from Lyin’ liberal @JoeManchinWV. Waited until Kavanugh had enough votes secured before he announced his support. I bet he had another press release ready to go if Collins went the other way,” Trump Jr. tweeted, before calling on people to vote for Manchin’s GOP Senate challenger Patrick Morrisey.
“West Virginia - Vote for #MAGA champion @MorriseyWV! #WVSEN,” he said.
The West Virginia Republican Party didn’t wait long to attack Manchin either.
“I’m glad that Senator Joe Manchin decided to listen to the overwhelming number of West Virginians who support the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court,” Melody Potter, the state’s Republican Party chairwoman, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, in typical Joe Manchin style, he waited until Kavanaugh’s confirmation was imminent before announcing his position. Manchin waited until the outcome was known, the votes counted, the results were imminent, and then piled on. That is not leadership.”
In the end, it looks like Manchin will head into the final confirmation vote for Kavanaugh occupying a singular position. He won’t even be joined by any of the Senate’s other red state Democrats.
The only other holdout from that group – Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota – announced on Thursday that she would vote against Kavanaugh.