CHARLES TOWN – When Joe Manchin cast a “yes” for Brett Kavanaugh on Saturday – the only Democrat in the Senate to back Trump’s embattled pick for the U.S. Supreme Court – many in the party said they’d never been angrier at a politician.
“I am having a difficult coming to terms with this betrayal from Manchin,” said Dana Phillips, who lives in Ranson. “I just don’t think I can excuse this one away.”
Across West Virginia, others reported feeling angry – and vowing not to support the former governor in his bid for another six-year term in the Senate. He will face Republican Patrick Morrisey, the state’s attorney general, on Nov. 6.
Before Kavanaugh’s confirmation following multiple accusations of sexual misconduct, Danielle Walker of Morgantown cried on Manchin’s shoulder after she shared her story of sexual assault in the senator’s office. She said shed thought he’d listened.
After the vote, the 42-year-old said she felt devastated and furious. ‘‘I feel raped all over again,’’ Walker told The Associated Press.
On Sunday, a day after Manchin broke with his party on what may be the most consequential vote of the Trump era, the Democrat is facing a political firestorm in his home state.
Political insiders say a Manchin loss would put his party’s hopes of regaining control of the Senate virtually out of reach.
Walker, a first-time Democratic candidate for the state legislature, said she may not vote at all in the state’s high-stakes Senate election.
Julia Hamilton, a 30-year-old educator who serves on the executive committee of the Monongalia County Democratic Party, vowed to sit out the Senate race as well.
‘‘At some point you have to draw a line,’’ Hamilton said. ‘‘I have heard from many, many people — especially women. They won’t be voting for Manchin either.’’
Manchin defended his vote in a Sunday interview as being based on facts, “not emotion.” He praised the women who shared their stories of sexual trauma, but said he ‘‘could not find any type of link or connection’’ that Kavanaugh was a rapist.
The woman who testified Sept. 27 to the Senate about Kavanaugh, Christine Blasey Ford, accused him of sexual assault but not rape when they were high school students more than 30 years ago.
Two other women stepped forward late in the confirmation process to accuse the appeals court judge of sexual misconduct in high school or college. Their stories resonated with women who had suffered sexual trauma and fueled opposition to Kavanaugh’s confirmation.
‘‘They weren’t going to be satisfied, or their healing process, until we convicted this person,’’ Manchin told The Associated Press. ‘‘I couldn’t do it. You talk about two wrongs trying to make a right. It just wasn’t in my heart and soul to do that.’’
Manchin insisted over and over that his vote wasn’t based on politics.
There is little doubt, however, that his vote was in line with the wishes of many West Virginia voters, who gave Trump a victory in 2016 by 42 percentage points. There simply aren’t enough Democrats in the state to re-elect Manchin. He needs a significant chunk of Trump’s base to win.
One West Virginia Trump supporter, 74-year-old Linda Ferguson, explained the politics bluntly as she watched the parade at Saturday’s Mountain State Forest Festival in Elkins.
‘‘If he didn’t vote for Kavanaugh he could have kissed his seat goodbye,’’ Ferguson said.
The clash over Kavanaugh has injected new energy into each party’s political base.
Manchin has held a significant lead in public and private polls over Patrick Morrisey, a New York native who moved to Harpers Ferry after becoming a D.C. lobbyist who unseated Darrell McGraw in 2012.
Republican operatives familiar with the race report a definite tightening over the last week.
In an interview, Morrisey called Democrats’ fight against Kavanaugh a ‘‘three-ring circus’’ that ‘‘energized a lot of people in West Virginia.’’
He called Manchin’s vote ‘‘irrelevant’’ because another swing vote, Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, had already given Kavanaugh the final vote he needed.
‘‘He waited until the last possible minute after Susan Collins declared for him to take a position, effectively allowing Maine to decide how West Virginia’s going to decide,’’ Morrisey said. ‘‘We shouldn’t reward that kind of cowardice.’’
Echoing the attack, Donald Trump Jr., mockingly called Manchin ‘‘a real profile in courage’’ on Twitter.
When asked about the social media jab, Manchin slapped away the insult.
Donald Trump Jr. is ‘‘entitled to his opinion, he’s just not entitled to his own facts to justify what he’s saying. He doesn’t really know anything,’’ Manchin told the AP.
The Democrat conceded that he followed Collins’ lead out of ‘‘respect’’ — he didn’t want to get in the way of her high-profile Friday mid-afternoon announcement on the Senate floor.
‘‘Nothing would have changed my vote,’’ Manchin declared. ‘‘Susan took the lead, Susan did the due diligence. ... She’s going to give her speech and I’m not going to jump in front of 3 o’clock. I’m just not going to do it.’’
That wasn’t good enough for Tammy Means, a 57-year-old florist from Charleston, who was among thousands tailgating outside West Virginia University’s football stadium in Morgantown on Saturday.
Means, a registered Democrat who voted for Trump, said she also voted for Manchin in the past. ‘‘I’m not going to anymore. Nope,’’ she said with a laugh.
She’s glad Manchin voted for Kavanaugh, but said:’’He’s just doing it so he can get elected.’’
Across the parking lot, 63-year-old John Vdovjac said he was deeply disappointed by Manchin’s vote. Still, the Democrat said he’d probably vote for Manchin this fall.
‘‘I recognize the position he’s in because the state’s heavily Republican now,’’ said Vdovjac, a retired educator from Wheeling. ‘‘But he’s lost my loyalty.”
Before and after the AP interview, conducted at Charleston’s International House of Pancakes, he worked to explain his vote to everyone, including his waitress.
‘‘I made my decision based on facts,’’ the senator told Kevin Estep, a 57-year-old registered Democrat and Trump voter who was eating with his family.
‘‘You hang in there and vote your heart,’’ Estep, who lives in nearby St. Albans, told the senator.
After Manchin left the building, Estep warned that the #MeToo movement ‘‘is like a dam that’s about to break open.’’
Asked whether he’d support Manchin this fall, he responded, ‘‘Always.’’
In the Eastern Panhandle, many Democrats said they would still back Manchin next month.
“I will hold my nose and vote for Joe Manchin in the hopes of ending the craven and ruinous reign of Mitch McConnell as Majority Leader,” said John Meeker.
Kathy Sweeney Lloyd agreed. “I’m disgusted by Joe but Patrick is evil,” she said. “I’m voting for Joe [on Nov. 6] but I will work to unseat him” if he runs for another term.
Stewart Acuff said it’s “tough” to think about voting for Manchin when Democrats elsewhere in the country will vote against incumbents who backed Kavanaugh.
“But I was in the electoral wars in the Deep South and I’ve seen what happens when we lose a 50-percent Democrat” to be replaced by a Republican that he doesn’t agree with at all on any issue.
Acuff said he’ll still respect any former fans of Manchin who decide not to vote for him on Nov. 6. “I will not argue with anyone about this. I greatly respects friends and folks I don’t know who see it differently. Perhaps we’re best to let each other work it through her or his conscience.”
Nancy Gregory of Charles Town calls the relationship between Democrats and Manchin “a classically abusive relationship.”
“Manchin occasionally throws us a bone thinking that this will keep us with him,” she said “It is obvious that Manchin voted to confirm Kavanaugh in order to keep his more moderate Republican supporters.
“It is all about politics and has nothing to do with doing the right thing.”
West Virginians weren’t the only people to criticize Manchin.
Ford’s sister-in-law said Manchin and Collins were trying to “have it both ways” when they said they believed Ford was sexually assaulted but not by Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
Manchin and Collins, a Republican from Maine, said they believed Ford when she said she had been sexually assaulted but that they didn’t think there was corroboration to prove it was Kavanaugh.
“I think it’s their way to sort of get out of this difficult bind that she is believable and that this type of behavior is completely unacceptable,” Deborah Peters said on CNN’s “Erin Burnett OutFront.”
Peters said she thought the senators’ logic was a way to divert away from the main issue.
“I think they’re saying -- I think they’re saying, ‘Gee, she looks credible, but we can’t really believe that the man we like would do this,’” Peters said. “So, therefore, it’s not valid, you know, it’s not valid that it was him, even though that type of memory does not get mistaken, does not go away.”