West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin is fighting for his seat in the Senate while pro-gun groups are backing his Republican opponent.
The former governor who has represented the state on Capitol Hill since 2010 is fighting West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey to stay in Congress this November. With Morrisey, a Republican, campaigning strong in favor of gun rights and against the Affordable Care Act, Manchin this week borrowed a tactic he used in the past in his latest ad — a firearm.
In the 30-second spot, entitled Dead Wrong, Manchin uses an over-and-under trap gun to blast a copy of a legal challenge to Obamacare that Morrissey filed, saying the effort would “take away health care from people with pre-existing conditions.”
Manchin previously used a gun prop in a 2010 political ad where he tapped in a bolt-action hunting rifle to take shots at a proposed cap-and-trade bill then in the U.S. House, saying it was bad for West Virginia.
The co-author with Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey of a measure to expand background checks to private gun transfers that was defeated in 2013, Manchin has since revisited the concept over the past several years only to lament the support isn’t there on Capitol Hill to push it through. Manchin previously told the New York Times that he spoke with Trump in December 2016, saying the President shared there was a “complete opportunity” for new gun control legislation.
Manchin has been something of a moving target when it comes to gun control. While he often has touted that he is an avowed National Rifle Association member despite the organization’s criticism of him, Manchin opposed West Virginia’s constitutional carry law which was strongly backed by the group. In 2014, he was one of only two Democrats to vote against President Obama’s nominee for Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, who drew fire from gun rights advocates over statements he had made classifying gun violence as a public health issue.
He has been among the few Dems to cross the aisle and back President Trump’s more polarizing nominations including Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as Attorney General and Judge Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court and is seen as a possibly essential vote on Brett Kavanaugh. On the only piece of pro-gun legislation to be signed by Trump last year, a repeal of an Obama-era Social Security gun ban, Manchin went with the Republican majority. He is not one of the 31 Dems to sign on to the current effort to ban “assault weapons” in the Senate but is one of the 77 bipartisan members to co-sponsor the FixNICS bill.
The NRA, who endorsed Morrissey with an “A+” rating on Monday, has launched a six-figure TV ad campaign arguing that Manchin cannot be trusted to support the rights of West Virginia’s law-abiding gun owners, highlighting his “D” grade given by the group.
“Voters deserve the facts before they head to the polls,” said Chris W. Cox, chairman of the NRA’s lobbying arm. “Contrary to what Joe Manchin says in West Virginia, he has supported the agenda of Barack Obama and Chuck Schumer by voting in favor of gun control in Washington, D.C.”
While in office, Morrisey has filed supporting briefs with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the Justices to protect popular semi-automatic rifles and magazines from prohibition and to uphold the Second Amendment rights of lawful gun owners to carry a weapon without law enforcement concluding an individual at a warrantless stop is “presently dangerous” and subject to a search.
Poll aggregator Real Clear Politics has Manchin with an 8-point lead over Morrisey.