Joe Manchin won West Virginia’s Senate race, defeating Republican businessman and perennial candidate John Raese, who had surged in recent weeks. Manchin’s win in the race to fill the seat vacated by the death of Senator Robert Byrd is surely a relief to Democrats—after all, Byrd held the seat for 51 years—but that doesn’t mean he will necessarily back the White House from the Senate.
Manchin’s win does likely kill any remaining hope of Republicans taking a majority in the Senate. But Manchin ran against Obama on a number of issues. He made it clear that he would not back a climate bill, going so far as to bust a cap in the cap and trade bill. He also positioned himself against the health care overhaul. In the final weeks before the election, Manchin made his main selling point the fact that he would vote against a number of Democratic priorities.
Current tallies have Manchin’s lead at 54 percent to Raese’s 43 percent. West Virginia is a red state—Obama only claimed 43 percent of the vote there in 2008—which certainly explains Manchin’s attempts to distance himself from the president. But this is a smaller margin of victory than Manchin has enjoyed in his previous races for governor, in which he won more than 60 percent of the vote. This likely ensures that Manchin will operate as conservatively in office as he indicated in the campaign.