The fiercely contested 2018 Senate race in West Virginia is already heating up with a little help from Vice President Mike Pence.
On Wednesday, Pence visited the Mountain State and promptly picked a fight with Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat facing a tough re-election bid in the deeply red state.
At an invite-only event at Worldwide Equipment, a firm specializing in truck parts and sales in White Sulphur Springs, Pence praised the strong economy he attributed to Donald Trump and the Republican agenda.
“We’ve been unleashing American energy. This president approved the Keystone and Dakota Pipelines, he’s repealed the so-called clean power plan and under President Donald Trump… the war on coal is over,” Pence said, echoing a false claim made by President Trump during the State of the Union.
That’s when things got heated in White Sulphur Springs.
First, turning his attention to the members of Congress in the room, which included Sen. Shelley Moore Capito and Rep. Evan Jenkins, Pence thanked them for their hard work getting the GOP tax bill passed.
— Rep. Evan Jenkins (@RepEvanJenkins) February 1, 2018
Then he laid into Manchin, stressing that not only did the Democratic senator vote no on tax reform unlike the West Virginia Republicans, but he voted no “time and again on the policies that West Virginia needs.”
“When the time came to repeal and replace the disaster of Obamacare, Joe voted no,” Pence said. “When we empowered West Virginia to defund Planned Parenthood, Joe voted no. And when it comes to that wall we’re gonna build on the southern border, Joe said, ‘I’m not voting for the wall either.’”
Driving his point home in front of approximately 120 guests and the national media, Pence continued, “Folks, Joe is gonna keep voting against West Virginia…. West Virginia needs to let him know, we expect better. You need to let Joe know that West Virginia deserves better in Washington, D.C.”
Pence wasn’t done yet. Shortly after he left the stage, he tweeted out a version of his remarks as well as a video of his speech in front of a giant flag.
.@Sen_JoeManchin voted no to give working families more of your hard-earned money. Joe voted no on tax cuts. Joe voted no time and again on the policies that West Virginia needs. #JoeVotedNo pic.twitter.com/uV7SdAa2q8
— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) January 31, 2018
Manchin, who stakes his reputation in Washington on his ability to be a centrist capable of working with the Trump administration and the Republicans, replied on Twitter, “The VP’s comments are exactly why Washington Sucks.”
The VP’s comments are exactly why Washington Sucks. I’m disappointed in his comments but will continue to work to make Washington work so #WV & our country work.
— Senator Joe Manchin (@Sen_JoeManchin) January 31, 2018
In a press release issued by his spokesperson, Manchin added, “I am shocked that after the vice president worked for almost a year in a divisive and partisan way to take health care away from almost 200,000 West Virginians, bankrupt our hospitals, and push tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and huge corporations that he would come to West Virginia and continue his partisan attacks.”
Manchin’s seat is a hot target for Republicans in the 2018 midterms, who see Trump’s popularity in the Mountain State as a chance to turn the seat red.
Rep. Evan Jenkins, who stood beside Pence at today’s event, is one of the five GOP contenders vying for the Senate seat. No other GOP candidates for the seat were in attendance.