MORGANTOWN - The last Democratic presidential candidate to win West Virginia's five electoral votes touted Gov. Joe Manchin as the right person to take the U.S. Senate seat held by the late Robert C. Byrd on Monday afternoon.
Former President Bill Clinton told the crowd at Hazel Ruby McQuain Pavilion that although many Americans are frustrated and "mad" at the current U.S. legislative and executive branches of government, they should not base their vote on emotion and negative ads but instead on proven records.
Clinton began his pitch with a few jabs at John Raese, Manchin's Republican opponent for the seat, by saying, "I don't think it's fair for West Virginia to have one senator and Florida to have three," referring to Raese spending time in Florida.
Former President Bill Clinton and U.S. Senate candidate Gov. Joe Manchin address the crowd in Morgantown Monday.
"I figured somebody would jump on me for coming in here to help the governor," Clinton added. "Then I figured they won't say anything about me because anybody would rather have a guy from Arkansas come in than pay actors from Philadelphia to do it."
Although Manchin appeared to be a clear favorite among voters at the start of the campaign, Raese continues to gain the support of West Virginians. Recent polls indicate the two are neck-and-neck, with Raese gaining the lead in some.
"If people in this state weren't frustrated and angry, he (Manchin) would be ahead by 30 points and you know it," Clinton said. "I don't blame anybody for being mad ... but I'm old enough to know that when you make a decision when you're mad, then this is just not politics, there's about an 80 percent chance you'll make a mistake."
Clinton encouraged West Virginians to "look at the facts" and think before they head to the polls. Comparing deciding on a candidate to preparing for a football game, the former president told the crowd they need to study and be informed about those who are seeking office.
"Don't let this guy play you," Clinton said of Raese. "Look at the game films."
Game films West Virginians should consider, according to Clinton, include how Manchin's leadership has helped West Virginia have a balanced budget and how "arithmetic" is ignored by Washington Republicans.
He added that elected officials should ask themselves: No. 1 - Are people better off when you leave office than when you began? No. 2 - Do children have a better future? and No. 3 - "Are things coming together or falling apart?"
"The rest of it is all background music," Clinton said. "We have a lot of background music in this election. Paid actors told to act like hicks. That burns me up."
National leaders need to create more jobs, decide how to finance job creation, ensure people are educated and trained to perform the job and fix the long-term debt, Clinton told the crowd.
He also said it's been determined that the four sectors that provide the greatest potential for growth are small business, manufacturing, new energy and building infrastructure.
"Joe Manchin is the only person running for this Senate seat who has ever created jobs in those areas," Clinton said.
Republicans do not care about the national deficit until a Democrat is president, Clinton said. Now, Republicans say they will stop the Democrats' "reckless spending," but Clinton says the party wants to change the economy by appealing arithmetic. He added that lawmakers should be making the same decisions about money that average Americans are making.
The tactic being used by Republicans and the Raese campaign is to catch people while they're angry at government and have them "vote for the very thing they do not want," Clinton said. Manchin, on the other hand, has given West Virginians what they want and will continue to do so as a member of the U.S. Senate, Clinton added.
"There is only one person you can vote for, and you can thank your lucky stars that you have a governor who is willing to go to Washington and do there what has been done here," Clinton concluded.
At the rally, Manchin said when he took office he knew West Virginia could face any challenges that came its way.
"I brought everybody together," he said. "I said, 'Listen, this is no time to be playing politics. There'll be plenty of times for that. We've got some challenges, and we're gonna get over them. So, put your Democrat and Republican politics aside and be a West Virginian, make decisions based on West Virginia and what's good for West Virginia, and I'll guarantee you politics will take care of its own.'
"We have more challenges in Washington, D.C., than ever before," Manchin told the crowd. "We have more challenges bringing people together. And I tell people this all the time - I'm as mad as you. I'm as mad as most people, and I'm as mad as most people are talking all over this state and the country. I'm mad at Washington. I'm mad at the Democrats and Republicans in Washington that are putting their party and they put their own self-interests before they put the country. We've got to change that."
Manchin reminded those in attendance that he has received the endorsements of working people, including chambers of commerce, labor unions and health care professionals.
"It's not because we agree on every issue," he said. "They agree with the process we have put in place."
The process Manchin said he thinks is best to make decisions is based on what's fair and best for the entire state.
"That's how we've fixed the state," Manchin added. "That's what we need to do in Washington, and that's what I intend to do in Washington."
Manchin also balked at Raese's "rubber stamp" and "hick" ads that have been broadcast on television and radio stations.
"The only rubber stamp that I will ever be is for you and the state of West Virginia," Manchin said.
The "hick ad," Manchin said, demeans the people of the state and "went through me like a knife."
"My opponent, John Raese, said, 'It's just politics,'" Manchin added. "I said, 'I'm sorry, John, that's personal to me.'"
Manchin called the negative "rubber stamp" ad "a lie" and said he respectfully disagrees with President Barack Obama on the issue of "cap and trade." The energy bill passed by West Virginia does not impose taxes or caps, Manchin noted. He said the largest energy-producing state in the nation needed an energy bill that states West Virginia is committed to mining coal, extracting oil and using natural energy, such as wind. Manchin said he thinks if the United States would use more of its own resources, the nation would no longer have to deal with countries that are unfriendly.
"Find a way that you can quit buying foreign oil to run your state," Manchin said. "I guarantee you'll have the strongest country you've ever had. It'll be the freest country, and it'll be the most secured country you could ever have."
Manchin also said he supports children having health insurance and does not think insurance companies should be able to deny coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions. He added that some parts of the national health care bill need to be changed, including changes to Medicare and telling individuals what insurance coverage they should have.
Raese, Manchin said, is against setting a minimum wage; believes there should be a 23 percent sales tax on everything; thinks workplace safety should be loosened; believes there should be tax cuts sending jobs overseas; and wants the Department of Education eliminated. He said he disagrees with Raese's stance.
"Don't let somebody scare you into thinking I might do something I've never done in my life," he added.
State Sen. Mike Oliverio, D-Monongalia and Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives, 1st District, said West Virginia Democrats have been fiscally responsible and care about the residents they represent.
First lady Gayle Manchin also spoke of her passion for West Virginia and introduced West Virginia University men's basketball head coach Bob Huggins, who welcomed Manchin to the lectern.