Manchin holds Senate seat, suggests “presidential healing tour” - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Manchin holds Senate seat, suggests “presidential healing tour”

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Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin has successfully won a full term in the seat he took over when Sen. Robert C. Byrd died in 2010.

"Nobody can follow in Byrd's footsteps," Manchin said in his victory speech in Fairmont. But, he said, it's been an honor and a privilege to serve for two years and he's proud to serve for six more.

Manchin maintained more than 60 percent of the vote as returns came in through the evening.

It was not yet 9 p.m. when the Associated Press called the race, and with 93 percent of the vote in at 11:30 p.m. Manchin had 61 percent of the vote, with Republican challenger John Raese getting 36 percent and Mountain Party candidate Bob Henry Baber trailing at 3 percent.

Manchin and perennial candidate Raese squared off for the same seat in a special election in 2010.

A high point in this campaign season came when the three candidates debated on Oct. 2 at Shepherd University. Raese accused Manchin of being "on the wrong team," aligned with President Barack Obama and against coal; Baber said Raese was lying, characterizing Manchin, rather, as "too close to coal."

Raese also restated in that debate his intentions to abolish the federal Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency. Manchin said he thinks the EPA is hurting Appalachian coal, but that the economy and the environment have to be balanced.

Neil Berch was not surprised by the outcome. Berch is an associate professor of political science at West Virginia University who specializes in state and local politics.

"2010 was Raese's best chance," he said. "It was a year when conditions favored Republicans by a huge margin."

The West Virginia U.S. Senate race was one of the few nationwide where a Republican candidate tied himself so closely to Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, in Berch's observation.

"He was quite confident that Romney would carry West Virginia by a comfortable margin," he said. "I suspect that there are very few other places where there were contested Senate races, to the extent that this one was contested, and where Romney was well ahead in the presidential race, so that was a bit of an interesting twist."

In his victory speech, Manchin re-affirmed his commitment to work with his fellow lawmakers of both parties.

"Everywhere I go on the campaign trail, people are begging us to stop the political divisiveness and bickering that are hurting our country," he said.

"We've all heard the same thing: ‘Why can't you all work together?'" he said. "The time has come to put our country first, to put an end to the political games, to seize this opportunity and to rebuild America."

He suggested that the next president — now known to be Obama — should go on a "presidential healing tour," looking at the potential in each state, and invited him to start in West Virginia.