Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is publicly backing a moderate Republican lawmaker in a U.S. House primary that pits two incumbents in West Virginia. The senator appeared in a campaign ad released Friday, supporting Rep. David McKinley over his Trump-endorsed opponent, Rep. Alex Mooney.
In the 30-second ad, Manchin said McKinley “has always opposed reckless spending because it doesn’t make sense for West Virginia.” The Democrat added that Mooney “has proven he’s all about Alex Mooney. But West Virginians know David McKinley is all about us.”
The argument of “reckless spending” comes as McKinley claims that Mooney is misleading voters about the former’s vote for President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure law. Mooney voted against it, and in one ad attacked McKinley for “backing Biden for a trillion-dollar spending spree.”
“I’ve always said if I can’t go home and explain it, I can’t vote for it. And that’s why I opposed Build Back Better,” Manchin said in McKinley’s ad, adding that for Mooney “and his out-of-state supporters to suggest David McKinley supported Build Back Better is an outright lie.”
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Mooney on the day Biden signed the infrastructure bill into law. In response to McKinley’s ad, Mooney tweeted that his opponent is “a complete and total RINO” because Manchin is supporting him.
“They also supported the sham January 6th witch hunt investigation against Donald Trump and his allies,” Mooney continued on Twitter. “Manchin even voted for Trump’s impeachment.”
McKinley’s campaign released the ad just days before the May 10 Republican primary in West Virginia. The two incumbent Republicans are facing each other after West Virginia’s population losses resulted in one less seat for the state in the U.S. House. With the new congressional map, McKinley and Mooney are fighting to represent the state’s 2nd Congressional District, a securely red area that most national Democrats have effectively stopped fighting for.
Manchin’s appearance in the ad comes as questions arise about whether the centrist Democrat — who has made it very difficult for Biden to pass his sweeping policy agenda — has considered switching parties. Two New York Times reporters write in their forthcoming book that Manchin told No. 2 Senate Republican John Thune that he would change his party affiliation if the South Dakota lawmaker were the Senate Republican leader.
“They are always kidding back and forth,” Manchin pushed back on Thursday. “They would love for me — I said, ‘Guys listen, I am who I am, I’m a West Virginia Democrat.’”